Your Instagram feed, inspiring and motivational only days earlier, has now become your own worst enemy and you find yourself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through images of fit bodies and healthy eating and wondering when exactly it was that you put the skipping rope back in your gym bag and made the couch your new place of permanent residency…
And you are left with one resounding question running laps through your mind, stabbing you with the prongs of guilt: how did you end up back in the very place you were hoping to leave?
The Silent Assasin
Let's be honest, no matter how motivated we are, there comes a point where motivation begins to wane and suddenly celery sticks and sweet potato look a whole lot less appetising and we would rather poke pins in our eyes than get into skins marked with the distinct smell of sweat and walk through the door of the gym.
The first week of change is always a killer. It comes in with a raucous, let's us know it's there, changes our worlds, makes us uncomfortable; but we know the first week is going to be hard so we persevere to day 7.
Days 8-14 you start to see a glimpse of change in your tone, skin and are fully aware you are not gasping for breath even half as much as you did the week before, you are excited and you feel that you can really commit to a healthier lifestyle. You don't even need encouragement at this point, after all you got through week 1 and that's the hardest part right?!
But the third week is the silent assassin.
Days 9-21. You've got this now, you're basically a pro. The huffing and puffing has disappeared and the dull burn of your muscles feels like the norm. But then it catches you off guard…you begin to cheat and make allowances that you never would have when you first began. Suddenly a bit of chocolate doesn't seem as bad – I mean how much harm can one piece of chocolate be anyway? And Tuesday rolls around, your leg day, and you make an allowance for a day off – after all you have been going so well, why not treat yourself? And on and on it goes until you find yourself sitting in your flannelette pyjamas in front of lame reality TV shows spooning generous dosing's of gelato into your mouth.
Stop there. Stop the bull. Something needs to change.
If You Change Nothing, Nothing Will Change
It's okay to feel like this, the fact that we can relate to this means it's often reality, but it is what we do in response to this that defines us.
In 1 Corinthians 9 verses 24 to 25a [The Message] Paul writes, "You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades."
Through this metaphor Paul is bringing to the forefront of his readers' minds the concept of discipline.
Now I'm certainly not an elite athlete and neither is the average Jo but although at this stage in Paul's letter this is merely an unexplained metaphor it booms a deafening reality: just like an elite athlete, unless we are disciplined nothing will ever change. We might have all the good intentions in the world, but if we are all talk and never let the rubber actually hit the road a good intention, whilst not a bad thing, will never yield lasting results.
We hardly need to be reminded because we all know that if you want something you have never had you have to be prepared to keep doing things you have never done. And this requires discipline over a period of time.
If you desire a fitter and healthier lifestyle this means you need a plan of attack to help you reach your goal and then you need to be disciplined enough to stick to this even when you don't feel like it because discipline is necessary to establish patterns of change and patterns of change lead to a change in our current reality. Yes, this probably means saying no to chocolate and going to the gym when you would rather be spending quality time with your pet gerbil, even though you have been doing a good job up until this point!
So make plans and be disciplined: drink water, get a good nights sleep, workout, eat well, have a rest day and don't cheat. After a while you will see that because you changed something, everything about your body will start to change and before you know it you will have reclaimed the body of your youth.
Don't Sell Out
But if we want our gains to not just be a temporary symptom of change but a permanent change we need to let fitness and faith collide.
In 1 Corinthians 9 verses 25b to 27 [The Message] Paul continues, "You're after one (that's the gold medal he mentioned before) that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself."
Gains, muscle tone, improved fitness, health and great bikini bodies are good things; although it is your choice if you wear the bikini. They take discipline and effort over time but here Paul gets to his point: don't sell out. He slams his readers: it isn't about what you look like, what you can win, what you can achieve, he doesn't say these things are bad, but he emphasizes that at the end of the day what matters is what we can't physically see – our salvation. So run hard towards what matters, make this your priority and change some things – engage in spiritual disciplines: read your bible, pray, spend time with God – and see everything else change in your life.
The best training regime to attaining and maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle is to be disciplined both physically and spiritually, and to let our physical selves reflect our spiritual selves. In my own health journey I am finding that having a corresponding spiritual discipline for each one of my physical disciplines helps me keep accountable in both areas. Both are important. But at the end of the day we need to let our relationship with God be the priority and the engine room from which everything else follows.
Don't let your gains be a symptom of change but a permanent change as you honour God with your body as well as your mind and remember the goal that really matters.
"Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that's real power." Clint Eastwood
Charlotte (Charley) works in youth ministry and is studying a Bachelor of Theology at a bible college in Melbourne. Charley enjoys writing children's stories, playing guitar and dreaming the impossible.
Charley Goiris' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/charley-goiris.html