Your Physical and Emotional Health Matter
Growing up, I was very athletic.
I played baseball from age four through my senior year of high school and soccer from age four through my junior year of college. I lifted weights through my high school and college years. I was in the best shape of my life by my sophomore year of college, and I looked muy guapo. A few years later, a couple of kids later, several jobs later, and a few ministries later, I had gained about 50 pounds. I had a sedentary work lifestyle, a newborn with acid reflux, and I spent much of my time at home preparing to preach, so I had very little time or desire to exercise.
I felt sick all the time, and I frequently caught illnesses. And I didn’t look like the Andy I remembered. Nine years later, I lost almost all the weight in less than three months during a “biggest loser” competition in our church office. I felt great! I had more energy than I had in years! I looked like the old me again, and I had a great summer at the beach! However, this was short lived. I gained 40 pounds in about three months. I would lose and gain 40 pounds three more times after that. I’m currently in the process of losing the weight again.
A few months ago, I read an article in a psychology magazine about addictions, and I started thinking about my eating habits. I researched sugar and its effects on the body, and I was thrown by what I read. I’ll just say this about my research: refined sugar is toxic to the body. I started researching everything I regularly ate, and after about four hours of looking up calories, gluten, healthy and unhealthy blood sugar levels, healthy and unhealthy blood pressure readings, and balanced diets, I started asking myself, Why do I eat this stuff?
My church recently went through a very hard season of transition, and there were a lot of difficult decisions and hard conversations. As we were going through this time, we were asked to fast and pray. So I did. On the evening of my second day of fasting, I was sitting on the couch, unable to rest. I was experiencing a lot of stress, anxiety, and worry, and having an empty stomach didn’t help at all. I went into the kitchen and broke my fast. I shut it down in a big way. I ate everything I could eat: chips, leftover chicken, leftover pasta, a can of tuna fish, ice cream, and cookies, and I washed it all down with an ice-cold Coke.
I felt as if I were on top off the world! I felt as if someone had slipped me a drug or something. I was smiling and feeling really relaxed. That’s about the time I realized that food does affect my emotions—I realized that I’m an emotional eater. For years, I had been eating myself into a stupor, numbing the negative emotions I was feeling instead of dealing with them.
Once I allowed myself to experience my emotions, I was able to start managing my diet and exercise routine. Exercise and a good diet have huge benefits: they give me more energy, release endorphins, relieve depression, alleviate the effects of burnout, they mean the possibility of a longer life, and I’m a better example of godliness when I’m not demonstrating gluttony or laziness. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about physical health:
1. Physical health is unattainable without emotional health.
If you’re stressed out or not getting enough sleep, you’ll be anxious or angry. And even if you look great on the outside, if you’re stressed, you’re unhealthy. Negative emotions release chemicals in your body that eat away at your organs and muscle tissue. Physical health and emotional health go hand in hand, so while you work on your physical health, also work on your emotional health. Remember who you are in Christ and that he provides you with all the self-worth, value, significance, acceptance, and security you’ll ever need.
2. Your physical health affects your spouse.
Looks aren’t everything, but they do matter. When I look good, it boosts my self-confidence. And my wife feels appreciated when I take care of myself, because I’m increasing my odds of living longer and I’m making an effort to look better for her. What husband or wife wouldn’t appreciate that from their spouse!
3. Your physical health affects my kids.
Kids are mean—we all know that. I remember all the wisecracks and “yo mama” jokes I heard on the playground. The last thing I want is for my son or daughter to feel ashamed of me or—even worse—ashamed of themselves because their peers make fun of me. I want to be in the kind of physical shape that makes my kids feel proud of what their dad looks like. I also want to be the kind of supportive father that makes them feel pride in who they are right now.
4. Don’t let discouragement or disappointment derail you.
This one is hard for me, because I’m my harshest critic. I bust my rear end all week in order to lose a certain amount of weight. If I lose any less than that, I get discouraged and think, What was all that work for? Why bother at all? Or I work hard and I’m doing well, and then I get an upper respiratory infection that keeps me out of the gym for three weeks. I could quit, or I could keep going.
Giving up is easy, but the results of giving up are hard. It’s hard to keep going, but the results are great. Stay the course.
Andy Hastie is a youth and associate pastor at a church in northern New Jersey. He has more than 16 years of ministry experience as a youth worker, youth pastor, senior pastor/church planter, and associate pastor. He works closely with the children’s ministry as well, because his wife, Darea, is the part-time children’s/special needs/family ministry director. They have a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Gianna. Find him on Twitter @AndyHastie30.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.