When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, there is both a spiritual and physical approach; And I believe that when we address both components together, we will discover the fullness of the healthy life we so greatly desire.
The problem is, in our society today, many of us are juggling schedules with many different demands. Sometimes, even with all the knowledge in the world, it may seem nearly impossible to live out what we know to do. In moments like these, we often want to know, how do I practically put everything I have learned into practice?
When I started my journey to health, I too, felt overwhelmed in the beginning. After spending months studying how to best care for my body and soul, I had a lot of information, but I also needed to know how to apply it in a practical way. One of the things that helped me immensely was when I started making lists. Doing so allowed me to see my overall goal broken down into smaller realistic steps.
To help me reach my health related goals (without feeling burdened), I decided to make a list of ways that I could practically nourish my body and soul. Here are 10 keys to living a healthy lifestyle that are just as easy to remember as they are to put into practice!
1. Partner with God and Others
When we set out to accomplish a goal, we often make one of two errors. We either try to do everything on our own, relying on our own wisdom, strength, and ability. Or, we pray and ask God to help us, but we fail to do our part. I have found that it is only when we actively engage in a partnership with God that the impossible suddenly becomes possible. After all, He never intended us to do anything on our own, so it would be foolish to imagine that we can accomplish anything apart from Him.
One of my favorite depictions of our partnership with God is found in Matthew 14:13-21. In this passage, Jesus sent the disciples on a mission to feed five thousand men, women and children. At the time, the disciples didn’t see the logical way of doing so, as they contemplated feeding the multitude in their own strength and ability. Despite Jesus’ command to feed the people, they resorted to their own human reasoning and were getting ready to send the multitude away to find food for themselves. Jesus saw their lack of faith and told them, “That isn’t necessary. You feed them.” (paraphrased)
The disciples explained that they only had five loaves of bread and two fish, which wouldn’t nearly be enough to feed everyone. Jesus responded by telling them to bring what they had to Him. He then blessed the bread and fish and handed them back to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and there was even some leftover!
This is such a beautiful display of how Jesus can take what we have and multiply our efforts, ability, and provision. We can see that although Jesus could have fed the multitudes single handedly, He involved the disciples, giving them a crucial role to play. It was only when the disciples gave Jesus what they had in their hands that He was able to bless and multiply it. Likewise, the disciples had an active role in distributing the food to the people.
This is such a powerful display of the partnership that we have with the Lord. Just like all partnerships, there is a part for each of us to play. Our part is done by inviting God to walk with us in our journey. By giving Him what we have in our hands, we trust Him to help us in our areas of weakness.
Inviting God into our situation can be done through prayer, spending time with Him, listening to and obeying Him, and continually seeking His wisdom every step of the way.As we seek God for guidance, I believe that it pleases him greatly. He always responds by sending help from the Holy Spirit, who is our guide, counselor, and friend.
This specifically applies to living a healthy lifestyle, as it requires wisdom from God, but also our obedience and cooperation. For example, we are the ones that must make the choice to buy nutritious groceries, lace up our tennis shoes, and make healthy choices when dining out. As we ask for wisdom in how to care for our bodies, and act on what He is leading us to do, He is able to bless and multiply our efforts.
In addition to partnering with God, it can be incredibly valuable to partner with others in our journey to health. Just as we were never meant to do anything apart from God, I also believe that He never intended us to be isolated and achieve every goal on our own.
Having a support system in place is especially helpful on the days when we feel that we are lacking motivation or when we are tempted to quit. I personally found this to be true when my sister and I started working out together. There were days when I didn’t feel like going to the gym, but knowing that my sister was meeting me gave me the accountability I needed to stay committed.
When we join with others, we are able to share our struggles, gain practical advice, and encourage one another. Whether we find support from a family member, friend, or from a support group, there is strength in numbers!
2. Pray Over Your Food
Many of us grew up eating our meals around the dinner table, but in our busy society, a sit down meal is quickly becoming a thing of the past. These days, people are eating on the go, eating while standing up, or eating in the car more than ever. Often times this means that we forget to take the time to relax, enjoy, and pray over our food.
If this sounds familiar, I would encourage you to take the time to sit down and pray before you eat. Personally, I like to thank God for my food and ask Him to bless it to my bodies use. I also pray and ask Him to help me listen to the hunger cues He has placed within me. When we pray over our food, we are essentially inviting the Lord to the table with us. This changes our meal times from being something that is solely about us, to something that He can bless.
I have found that when we invite God in on the small things, we suddenly become aware of His presence in every area of our lives. It is then that He is able to lead and guide us to make the best choices for our health and overall well-being.
3. Pitch the Junk
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, one of my first recommendations is to start by cleaning out the fridge and pantry and pitch the junk food! As we discussed in previous chapters, junk food is referring to anything that is processed and lacking nutritional benefit to our bodies. White flour, sugar, and man-made processed foods are not only void of nutrition, but they are often filled with sugar, sodium, and additives, which leave us craving more. Replacing these foods with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats will not only keep cravings at bay, but also benefit our entire body.
As you clean out your kitchen, I also recommend cleaning out anything that is tempting to you personally. I am not suggesting that you never eat your favorite foods again, but I do think it is best to keep them out of your house. This eliminates any unnecessary temptations and makes it more enjoyable when you do enjoy them on occasion.
For me personally, temptation equates to peanut butter ice cream, but because I don't keep it in my house, I don’t have to resist it!Instead, I fill my freezer with healthier treats things like frozen strawberries that I mash into plain Greek yogurt, and it tastes almost as good as ice cream! Then, on occasion, my husband and I will go out to get ice cream and I help myself to my favorite flavor, peanut butter!
Whether you are like me and you enjoy ice cream, or you are a pizza or nachos kind of gal, I recommend that you become familiar with the things that are a weakness to your flesh. Do yourself a huge favor and keep them out of your house, reserving them for special occasions.
Now, that being said, I don't suggest that you banish your favorite foods from your kitchen all-together. Instead, I recommend making a healthier version of the things that you enjoy throughout the week. If you desire pizza, for example, make a homemade oat flour pizza crust (recipe can be found in the chapter Food for Thought section), and top it with tomato sauce, a little cheese, and lots of vegetables. I strongly believe that finding healthier alternatives to the foods you enjoy is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle long-term, which is why I have a passion for creating delicious clean eating recipes on Dashing Dish!
4. Process Your Emotions
So often as women we run to food to comfort when we are emotional, bored, tired, stressed, etc. Since I have begun to be more mindful of what and why I am eating, I have changed the way that I respond to my emotions when it comes to food. It didn’t happen overnight, but as I learned to walk by the Spirit (as we discussed in chapter 6), I have since found victory over emotional and mindless eating.
One of steps that I took to change my emotional response to food was by taking a moment to process how I am feeling. By taking a moment to process my emotions, I am able to ask myself: Am I eating for comfort? Am I turning to food in order to bring me temporary satisfaction, or to procrastinate something? Or am I really hungry? Taking a moment to ask yourself these honest questions will give you the time needed to make a course correction.
When you realize that you are turning to food out of emotion, it gives you the opportunity to physically stop, turn around, and head out of the kitchen. This will allow you to remove yourself from the tempting situation and find somewhere to spend time with Jesus, even if it means getting in your car, taking a walk, or going into your bedroom.
I also like to take a few moments to process how I feel while I am eating. I do this by asking myself: Am I eating mindlessly or am I truly hungry? Am I satisfied yet? If the answer is yes, I am able to put down my fork and remove myself from the situation until I am able to deal with my emotions in a healthy way.
When we make the choice to run to God instead of food, He will meet our needs and satisfy our souls in a way that only He could, and we won't have the regrets that come with emotional eating that often pile on top of whatever we were trying to bury in the first place. God wants us to run to Him for comfort, and He promises that when we do, He will comfort us and give us a renewed sense of joy and hope (Psalm 94:19).
5. Plan Ahead.
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, I am convinced that planning ahead is key! Planning prevents us from making bad choices when we are hungry, stressed, or are pressed for time. One of my favorite ways to plan ahead is to meal plan. Meal planning can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. You could start small by packing your lunches, or by preparing your meats and washing your produce to quickly add to recipes throughout the week. You could also plan ahead on a broader scale by preparing multiple meals ahead of time for the week ahead.
When it comes to meal planning, I personally fall somewhere in between these two options. I generally like to take a few hours on a Sunday or Monday to prepare my meats, wash and cut my vegetables, and boil some quinoa pasta to throw into recipes throughout the week. I also like to bake up a batch of clean eating muffins and a few other snacks to have on hand when I am busy or on the go.
Another important part of planning ahead is getting organized by preparing a grocery list and meal plan. After all, in the midst of a busy week, who has time to grocery shop and plan out all their meals? I like to use my Dashing Dish Custom Meal Plan and Grocery List Builder to plan what I will be having for the week. As I plug my recipes into the meal plan builder, the ingredients go straight to my grocery list, which then syncs onto the Dashing Dish iPhone App. I love having my calendar and grocery list with me on my phone at the grocery store, as well as having the ability to print them off at home to hang on my fridge. This keeps me organized and on track, and it saves me time, stress, and money in throughout the week.
Last but not least, I strongly suggest planning ahead when you know you have a busy day ahead of you. I have found that many people get into trouble when they are on the go. When hunger strikes and you aren’t prepared, it often leads to trips through the drive-thru, or overeating when you arrive at home because you are overly hungry. A better option is to plan ahead and pack a meal or high protein snack to take with you. Some of my favorite packable snacks include apples, almonds, cheese sticks, or homemade clean eating baked goods. Having healthy snacks on hand can prevent us from making unwise choices in the moment, as well as overeating later.
6. Portion Control
In our supersize society, portion control can be tricky. This is why I suggest food journaling for a few weeks in order to learn what a cup, ounce, and gram actually looks like. (You may even want to buy a food scale in order to really educate yourself.) Once you have a relative idea of what a serving size looks like, the challenge comes with sticking to those portions.
One of the ways that I have found it helpful to eat smaller portions, yet feel satisfied is by bulking up my meal with low calorie fruits and vegetables. Sure, four ounces of cooked chicken may not seem like a lot of food, but when placed on a big bowl of greens along with a bunch of other toppings such as fresh vegetables, it seems much more satisfying to both your eyes and stomach.
Another way to stay satisfied and maintain portion control is by staying properly hydrated. So often we mistake hunger for thirst, so filling up on water and water rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can help keep us feeling full. The important thing about choosing beverages is that you stick to ones that don’t add calories or sugar to your diet. Tea, decaf coffee, sparkling water, and lemon water are all great options. I have also found that it is much easier to mind portion sizes when I am eating a few small snacks throughout the day. By having a snack that is rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, I find that I am better able to pay attention to my body's hunger cues when I sit down to eat a meal.
Special occasions and holidays are another area that can be challenging to pay attention to portion sizes. Special occasions are typically filled with a lot of food and special treats, some of which only come around once a year. In these moments, I suggest enjoying one of your grandma's homemade cookies, or one piece of your mom's famous pie. The problem comes when people feel that they need to savor every bit of food put in front of them. I also recommend practicing portion control by filling up with healthier options (either before or during the party), then carefully choosing a single serving of one treat that you really want to enjoy.
Last but not least, when it comes to portion control, it is important to be mindful at restaurants. The good news is, these days there are a lot more options when it comes to ordering smaller portion sizes, as well as healthier options on the menu. What do you do, however, when a lighter option is not available? One way to mind your portion size while eating out is to eat slowly and pay attention to when you are truly satisfied (not stuffed), and take the rest home with you. You can also split an entree or dessert with someone.
I think that it's pretty safe to say that as women we tend to neglect ourselves in an effort to care for those around us. Somehow we tend to think that putting a priority on our health is selfish, although this could not be further from the truth!
I often remind women what the stewardess says about caring for ourselves first in the case of an emergency. Before takeoff, the stewardess explains that if you are a mother of small children, you need to put your oxygen mask on yourself before putting it on those around you. They often remind us that although it may seem illogical, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won't be there to care for those who need us.
I think that it’s time that we realize that in order to be the best wife, mom, caretaker, businesswoman, etc., we need to prioritize our health so we can be healthy enough to care for others. It's time that we give ourselves the permission to care for our bodies, knowing that they are valuable and worth taking care of.
One of my favorite ways to make my health a priority is by dedicating the first hour of my day to spending time with the Lord, which is then followed by a quick and effective workout, (more on this in chapter 10). When I start my day with the Lord and moving my body, everything I do later in the day is more productive. I find that I have more energy and strength to get through my day, and I have the peace of God guarding my heart and mind.
If you think that you don't have time to dedicate 1-2 hours in your day to strengthen yourself spiritually and physically, then I would encourage you to re-focus your priorities. Each one of us have the same 24 hours in a day, and we all get to choose how we are going to spend it. If you want to live a life that is healthy and free, you must make your wellness a priority. Remember, you are worth taking care of and investing in!
One of the most common temptations for women when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle (as well as in many other areas) is comparison! Comparison has become easier to do than ever before. Thanks to social media, television, and even old school magazines, we are bombarded by multiple sources of comparison on a daily basis. When people share pictures of their perfectly clean house, best-dressed kids, and perfectly healthy meals on the Internet, suddenly we feel like we could never measure up.
There is something so sneaky and subtle about comparing ourselves with others, because so often we can mistake it for inspiration. The only problem is, so often we take it a step further and try to look like, be like, and act just like someone else, which can leave us feeling like a failure.
The problem with comparison as it relates specifically to health and fitness is that every person’s body is unique. There are various contributing factors that make up a person's body shape and size such as lifestyle, genetics, hormones, and food sensitivities just to name a few. The point is, every person’s body is different! When we compare ourselves with others in the area of health and fitness, so often we make judgments based on external appearance. This is not always an accurate gauge however, because someone who is very thin may be unhealthy on the inside, and someone who eats healthy and cares for their body may never be a size 2! This is just one of the many examples of how you can’t judge a person's health by their looks, because healthy really does look different on everyone.
The most profound thing that I have learned when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle is to find what works best for you. Being healthy is not about looking like someone else, or following a popular trend. It is however about finding and doing what works best to nourish your body and care for it's specific needs.
Which brings us to the main point, which is to keep it all in perspective! If we spend all of our time comparing ourselves and looking at others, we will never be able to run our race effectively. Instead, we will be off in the sidelines wasting time with distractions, and never making progress on our journey.
The next time you are tempted to come compare yourself with someone else, choose to re-direct your focus, and think about the progress you are making each day. Celebrate each victory big and small, and keep your eyes focused on the race set before you, running with purpose in every step!
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, we all have times in our journey when things get tough. It may be a life change, a stressful season, or a lack of motivation. In times like these, it is important to have a “why” to keep us anchored. Our why is the driving force behind our choice to live a healthy lifestyle, and it is the very reason we started.
If someone were to ask you why you desire to live a healthy lifestyle, do you have an answer? Also, is your “why” sustainable? It is so important to have a viable “why” for the choices we make, because it is ultimately what will drive and define our actions long-term.
Everyone’s’ why may look different, but it is so important to find yours. Perhaps your why is to live a long and healthy life. Maybe your why is to get in shape so you can keep up with your children and family. Or maybe your why is to become the best version of you! Whatever it may be, finding the reason you are taking care of yourself will give you a sense of purpose and commitment to keep you going. If you don’t yet have a “why” for placing a priority on your health, I would encourage you to take some time to develop one and write it down.
In our society today, we tend to look for quick fix solutions to everything. If we don't see results overnight, we can quickly become discouraged and impatient. When it comes to learning healthy habits, we have to realize that it often takes months, if not years, to develop our current habits, so it will take time to make new ones as well!
One of the keys to overcoming impatience is to develop realistic short-term goals. Start to see every choice (big or small) as a step towards your main goal, and realize that they all add up over time. As you see these short-term goals accomplished, it will bring a sense of empowerment, knowing that you are making progress in your journey. This is often the push that we need to bring contentment and instill patience along the way.
God also encourages us to be patient, reminding us that when we are diligent and faithful, we will reap a great reward. Galatians 6:9 says, "Don’t grow weary in well doing, for if you faint not you will reap a reward.” I like to think of every choice as an act of obedience unto God, knowing that He is cheering us on every step of the way.
Small Steps Bring a Great Reward
These ten keys are not a complete list when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, but they are certainly a great foundation to get you started and keep you going strong on your journey! It may not seem like a big deal when we make one of these choices in our daily lives, but I have learned that every small step that we take adds up to produce lasting change.
Hebrews 10:35-36 encourages us in this same way. It says, “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” What a great reminder this is to remain steadfast in pursuing God’s will, knowing that as we do we will receive all He has promised! When we make the choice to combine daily actions in the physical (taking practical steps towards health) with the spiritual (prayer, reading the word, and trusting in the Lord), we can be confident that we will receive a great reward!
“Don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:22 (NLT)
- Do you ever feel that you have an abundance of knowledge when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, but have a hard time putting it into practice?
- Which of these ten tips do you feel is most helpful in your journey to health? How do you plan on applying them?
“Dear Lord, Thank you for providing me with all of the wisdom and guidance that I need in order to get healthy and enjoy the journey! Please help these tips come to my mind when I am tempted to be discouraged, overwhelmed, or give up. Instead, help me to use what I have learned and apply it to my life. I thank you that as I do my part, that you will bless all of my efforts. In Jesus Name, Amen.”