Keep Your Eye On Your Why

img_0544“Keep your eye on your why.” It was the second-to-last step in a set of helpful tidbits for people looking to minimize, but it was the one that stuck with me the most. Maybe because it rhymed, so I found it catchy. Maybe because it’s something I struggle with.

In pursuing my goals, both big and small, I sometimes forget what motivated me to start in the first place. And if I’m not careful, this lack of self-awareness will allow me to give up. I wonder if something is even worth my time and effort if I don’t remember why I started doing it in the first place.

Probably not.

If I want to stay motivated enough to see something through to the end, I have to remember why I’m doing it. I have to buy into the idea hook, line, and sinker. I can’t be one foot in and one foot out. It’s go big or go home, baby.

In other words, I need to keep my eye on my “why.”

Why am I pursuing the things that I’m pursuing?

Why am I saying “no” to some things and “yes” to others?

I can’t do it all. I have to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others in order to maintain some shred of my sanity and make sure I get some sleep. There are many, many things I could choose to pour my time and energy into, but only so many of them are good uses of those limited resources. Only a small fraction of them bring me joy and benefit the world around me.

And those are the things I want to pursue. That’s how I make my decisions. I ask what’s most important to me, what I really want to define my life.

I want to be known for my love.

And, considering that, I think about how to make decisions that reflect my purpose. I choose things that support that goal and align with my personality and gifts. In order to make the most of my time and efforts, it only seems logical to choose things I’m interested in, have an aptitude for, and things that will support my larger ambitions. I don’t want to waste my time doing things I’m going to give up on for lack of interest, get burned out doing because I wasn’t the right fit, or doing things that keep me stagnant.

Having the right motivation is key. If we don’t know why we’re getting up early to workout, we’re more likely to hit the snooze button instead of throwing off the covers and breaking a sweat. If we forget why we’re pinching pennies and budgeting, we’ll probably be less committed and find ourselves still impulse buying.

We need to remember why we do what we do.

I’ve found that having reminders around me is extremely necessary to living a life of purpose. I painted a sign over the summer with the word “beloved” on it that serves as a reminder in my house. I also have a beautiful necklace from my friend’s company She of Noble Character that says “beloved” on it and allows me to walk around with a constant reminder of who I am and how I’m called to live.

Remembering that I am loved and am called to be love in the world is my why. And I’m trying really hard to keep my eye on it.

 

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Do you have a big, overarching goal for your life that you filter decisions through? How do you remind yourself what your purpose is? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Further reading:

A Guide to Let Go of Your Perfectly Good Things by Zoë Kim, featured on Becoming Minimalist

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Body Love

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

An important facet of living like love is loving yourself– specifically loving your body. Our bodies are temples, right? They’re to be living sacrifices to God. God has trusted us to take care of all of His creation, which includes ourselves. We are to take care of our bodies as well as we care for everything else God has entrusted to us. We really only get one body. If we don’t properly care for it, we’re the ones who suffer the consequences. God has blessed us with bodies that are capable of so many amazing things, but we aren’t doing His gift justice when we treat ourselves like dirt and continually berate ourselves for not fitting into the narrow definition of beauty our society feeds us.

Many of us are seeing the growing importance of taking care of the environment. We agree that measures need to be taken from keeping pollutants out of the air and water supply. We take steps to personally be responsible by recycling, reducing waste, and finding more sustainable products. But we often stop there, disregarding the link between caring for the earth and living things around us and caring for ourselves.

We treat things differently based upon the value we put on them. If we highly value and cherish a possession, we will take greater care to keep it in good condition. On the other hand, if we don’t appreciate something we have, we are likely to neglect it and mistreat it. We can’t treat our bodies well until we learn to be grateful for what they’re capable of instead of focusing on perceived flaws.

We have predominantly negative views of our bodies, but studies have shown that there are great benefits that can be ours if we were to accept them as they are, flaws and all. Among them are feeling healthier, being better able to handle setbacks and disappointments, and reducing our risk of obesity. Not being ashamed of our bodies, but appreciating them for what they can do, and treating them with the respect and care they deserve, is one of the greatest ways we can take care of our physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health.

How exactly do we go about doing something so vague as “loving ourselves”? We treat ourselves with greater respect. We take care of ourselves. We don’t focus so much on the numbers, be it calories, pounds, or inches; instead, we think about how we feel and what we can do to be the best versions of ourselves.

  1. Move more. Find a type of exercise you enjoy, and do it often. Appreciate the fact that your body can do all that it can do.
  2. Drink more water. We all know we need it.
  3. Eat more plant foods, like vegetables and whole grains. Fill up with foods that will give you strength and leave you feeling your best.
  4. Reduce processed food intake. Learn to limit things that don’t make you feel good.
  5. Sleep more. Know that your body needs rest.

And ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. If we’re striving to make changes for the wrong reasons, we’re unlikely to stick to them. On the flip side, if our motivation comes from a place of self-love and a sincere desire to do what’s best for ourselves, we will be more committed to pursuing our goals, despite setbacks, and we will extend more grace to ourselves when we do slip up.

Instead of striving for six-pack abs, let’s aim for increasing our overall strength, attaining whole-body and whole-life wellness, and rediscovering the joy that is found when we properly care for ourselves. May we see greater value in pursuing a feeling of empowerment by taking charge of our own well-being and relish the incomparable value of the sense of empowerment that comes with loving ourselves just the way God made us.

Nutrition in a Nutshell

Trying to understand nutrition can seem like a daunting task. Everyone (experts and lay people alike) has their opinion, and studies often appear to contradict one another. I’ve recently been very interested in reading up about nutrition, specifically looking into what it means to pursue it as part of a healthy life, and trying to not make it so complicated. I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learned and found helpful.

We need a variety of foods because they have a wider range of nutrients that our body uses to regulate all of its complex systems. If we place all the blame on one component of food (like fat, for instance), we compensate with more of other things, often filling the gap with other unhealthy options instead of striving for a balance of healthy ingredients. When we overload it with too much of anything, especially sugar and fat (often via processed foods), things start to go awry.

But that doesn’t mean these things are inherently bad and needing to be avoided at all costs. It means we need to seek better balance. Surely, some of us are better at reaching and maintaining balance than others. I, for one, know what it theoretically looks like, but tend to ride the pendulum swinging back and forth from restricting too much and robbing myself of the joy of food on the one end and indulging too much and not feeling good on the other. Middle ground is much harder to find.

Instead of focusing in on one harmful ingredient, labeling foods as either “good” or “bad,” blaming all of our health problems on fats, carbohydrates, or cholesterol, let’s embrace a more wholistic approach to our nutrition.

We need to maintain a balanced diet throughout the day and throughout the week, not focus too much on specific ratios at each meal or which vitamins and minerals different foods contain. By eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, we will likely get all the nutrients we need without having to worry about those details.

Chow Down on Quality Foods
Forget counting calories. People who stay slim simply choose high-quality foods over junky ones, according to the Cornell research. “Think about 100 calories of potato chips versus 100 calories of almonds. Although it looks like you’re getting more food from the chips, you are more likely to feel hungry sooner after eating 100 calories of chips than 100 calories of almonds,” Starin says. “This is because the almonds are more nutrient-dense.” The almonds contain more fiber, protein and other health-boosting compounds. Meanwhile, the chips will just make you feel crappy, bloated and, in 30 minutes, hungry again.

Granted, it might take some thought to choose whole or minimally processed foods over less savory options — especially at first. But as you realize how much better you feel by eating this way, it will become automatic. You’ll eat those foods because just the idea of plowing through a sleeve of cookies makes you feel sick — not because you’re trying to “watch what you eat.” – K. Aleisha Fetters, dailyburn.com

If you don’t think you should eat something too often because of the lack of nutrient content or how it makes you feel afterward, save it for special occasions. If you really love something you know isn’t very good for you, by all means feel free to eat it occasionally, because experiencing the joy of food and cooking is important. But make sure you get yourself a full helping of more nutritious foods before you indulge, and serve an appropriate-sized portion (read: smaller portion than you think!) of your treat.

If you deny yourself your favorite foods completely, not only will you lose the joy of food and eating, you will be far more likely to binge on unhealthy food when you feel especially stressed or deprived. Deprivation is not the answer. Understanding what your body needs and what proper portion size looks like is far more important. Learn from your own body. Begin to recognize signs of fullness, and teach yourself to stop eating when you reach that point.

Know that embracing a healthier lifestyle is a process. Give yourself grace when you feel like you’ve made a poor decision, and choose to continue moving forward despite setbacks.

Vibrant Vegetables

We all know we’re supposed to eat more vegetables, right? I mean, our moms drilled that into our heads when we were little, keeping us at the table until we finished our peas, didn’t they? Then why does actually consuming more vegetables usually seem so hard? And why do veggie-less pastas and meat-centric dishes make us drool so much more than a big salad? Maybe more importantly, does it really matter?

Part of loving ourselves is taking care of ourselves in every way, right? And that ought to include caring about how we fill and fuel our bodies. We do not merely eat for pleasure, although there is certainly joy to be found in food. We need food for fuel, and there are good ways and not-so-good ways to go about getting that.

Our bodies run on energy. We obtain energy via calories in food. To keep everything functioning properly and get the energy we need to complete our daily activities, we need calories and nutrients from the right sources. If we choose primarily whole, plant-based foods, we are much more likely to have long-lasting energy from complex carbohydrates and proteins that take longer for our bodies to process compared to simple sugars in processed foods.

If we don’t want to be weighed down by excess body fat or feel sluggish after a particularly rich meal, we need to be aware of our fat intake. I’m not at all saying that we need to avoid it altogether. I’m advocating for a more moderate approach, one of carefully selecting the sources of our fats and properly controlling the amount we consume. We live in a society that puts a high value on animal products of all kinds for their purported health benefits (calcium in dairy, protein in meat, etc.) while ignoring the fact that these nutrients are also available in vegetables in comparable concentrations, and with less of the accompanying calories and fat.

Vegetables are cheaper and all around healthier options than animal products. Unlike the more controversial subjects (and diets which avoid consumption of) animal products, carbs, and fats, vegetables’ health benefits are not widely disputed; they aren’t pointed to as the evil foods that cause us to gain weight. They offer a wider variety of nutrients for fewer calories, which is a big deal if you’re looking to eat healthier– it’s like killing two birds with one stone. Vegetables are packed with fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals that your body desperately needs. And as if the nutritional content wasn’t enough, they come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors, you can make a truly beautiful meal that you can’t wait to eat!

Vegetable plots also are more environmentally friendly than farmland dedicated to raising animals, which in turn helps us care better for our nonrenewable resources. It takes less energy to grow vegetables than it does to create animal products or processed foods. So not only is the end product better for you, but by choosing more vegetables, you’re supporting more environmentally-friendly farming practices (What to Eat by Marion Nestle).

Of course, as vegetables (and fruits) spoil more quickly than processed, packaged foods, they should be bought only in proportion to what can reasonably be consumed in a short time frame. I find this difficult sometimes when I see so many different foods and feel the urge to just buy ALL THE VEGETABLES AND FRUITS. Something that helps me is remembering that each fruit and vegetable tastes best (and is usually cheapest due to availability) during a particular season of the year (check out these monthly guides if you want ideas). Choosing to buy seasonal produce has become a greater goal of mine as I seek ways to incorporate more of the foods that make me feel both healthy and happy, while also sticking to my grocery budget.

I encourage you to try new foods, especially vegetables, as many of them come into season and become more readily available at farmers’ markets this summer. Pick up something you’ve never tried (garlic scapes, kohlrabi, and leeks, I’m looking at you!), look up a new recipe, and give it a whirl! Tuck them into a bowl of pasta, use them to top a pizza, or cook them up in stir fry. You might just find a new favorite food, and you’ll be that much healthier for it!

Eating Cleaner

downloadIn trying to live a healthier lifestyle and not get caught up in a fad or craze that will only lump me with those who abandon the gym after the first month of the year as my resolution wanes, I want to implement healthier habits.

I’m trying to eat better in general, which can be difficult since it’s such a vague goal. I have quickly become the difficult one when trying to pick restaurants to visit, and I’m trying to work that out. I don’t want my health goals to become a hindrance to spending time with others over a meal, but I don’t want to compromise my health, either.

Instead of carrying around a lengthy list of things I want to avoid, I’m choosing to focus on things that I want to consume more of and center my meals around. With a more positive mindset, my goals don’t seem like negative limits, but allow me to feel good about my choices. They really all come down to choosing foods that are closer to their raw, natural form, and they really define what clean eating means for me.

  1. Produce– mainly vegetables. If I have a serving with lunch and dinner, I’m off to a pretty good start.
  2. Whole grains. I want to get the full benefits of every part of the grain, not the stripped-down versions that have been more processed.
  3. Lean protein. I need energy and nutrients to build muscle strength, found in foods like lean chicken and turkey, beans, lentils, and dairy.
  4. Healthy fats– in moderation. Our bodies need some fats, and there are good sources like avocado, nuts, olive oil, dairy, and lean meats.

Beyond that, I am aware of certain things I want to avoid when ordering food. This list includes heavily processed food, unhealthy fats –which are largely manmade, excessive added sugar and salt, and greasy foods that will make me feel sick later. When I focus more on what my body does need, though, it becomes less of a list of ingredients to avoid and more about properly filling up with the right kinds of foods. If I fill my plate with vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, I won’t have as much of an appetite for unhealthy options because I will have had my fill of more nourishing choices.

Cooking my own meals has helped me take several steps toward establishing a healthy lifestyle, as I can control what I eat. I don’t have to worry about questionable ingredients when I have the ability to search for my own recipes and substitute ingredients I’m uncomfortable with.

When it comes to choosing what products I buy, it becomes even easier. I have the ability to look at the labels on the products I select and consume. I can choose to buy responsibly-raised meats, local, fresh produce, and foods that are free of harmful chemicals and preservatives. This, too, supports my aim to eat food that’s not too far removed from its natural state.

I am not by any means great at sticking to these goals; I slip up far more often that I would ever like to admit. But I’m working on it. That being said, these are guidelines that I aim for because they work for me— when I follow them, I feel good. I have more energy, feel less sluggish, don’t feel weighed down, and can perform at my best. It’s taken me a while to narrow down a concept of what clean, healthy eating means for me, and I encourage you to discover what that means for you.

What about you? What kinds of parameters do you put around “healthy” food? What helps you make good choices?

Just Keep Moving

It’s been hard for me to figure out how to exercise the way I want to as the weather continues to get colder. I love running outside, but I seem to have a particularly low threshold for cold weather this winter, leaving me unable to bear the temperatures outside.

Honestly, that was a hard blow to my heart, since I enjoy running so much, but it forced me to think outside the box and search for new fitness options. It also opened my eyes to the high value I had placed on running in terms of fitness.

I did enjoy running, but it wasn’t always my main motivator, and sometimes I had a really bad attitude about it as I reluctantly walked out the door into the cold, as if running had become an unenjoyable form of personal punishment once the weather got too cold.

“The best way to avoid this type of self-sabotage is to view your runs themselves as rewards rather than as chores to be gotten through and rewarded…

[Y]ou should do whatever you need to do to enhance your enjoyment of running. Studies have shown that when people manipulate their workouts in ways that make them more fun, they are more likely to stick with their programs. If you enjoy running with music, run with music. If you prefer running with a friend or group, do that. If you like running in the park, run in the park. There’s really no wrong way to run for weight loss if you’re having fun.” – myfitnesspal article

While there is by no means anything inherently bad about making fitness, exercise, or running a big par of one’s life, it isn’t the only way to exercise. This winter has challenged me to rethink my approach to fitness, just like I’m doing with nutrition. I want to live a healthy lifestyle, not one that feels confined or treats fitness like an obligation or punishment. I want to really enjoy what I’m doing, and running in the bitterly cold weather just doesn’t fit into that.

Instead, I’ve upped my strength training. I’ve been doing some strength training for a long time now, but I’ve been incorporating more HIIT and regular cardio into the routines and extending the length of time of my workouts as I get more into them and build endurance. While this option seemed second-best to running initially, I’ve grown to like it for this season. I have a wide variety of video workouts to choose from that keep me continually challenged and never bored.

When I consider long-term goals and motivation, I don’t seek to be able to lift a certain weight or run at a certain pace. Instead, I just want to keep moving. This idea dawned on me while I was watching a video by FitnessBlender, one of my favorite workout channels. The couple who hosts the videos regularly reminds viewers to take breaks when necessary, but to always keep moving. It’s not as important to complete the full HIIT or cardio or strength workout as it is to respect your limits, and you’re still reaping great benefits as long as you keep moving.

That is exactly what I want to do: grow stronger, continually challenging myself to move forward toward new heights, recognizing and respecting my limits as necessary for preventing injuries that would cause setbacks, but being willing to try new things and push myself outside of my comfort zone to avoid getting stuck in a rut, making sure I enjoy what I’m doing.

And oddly enough, this concept is true for the rest of life as well. No matter what comes my way, trips me up, distracts me, demands my attention, threatens to steal my joy, or hinders me from reaching my goals, I want to just keep moving. Even if it’s just one little baby step at a time, I will keep moving, keep striving for new heights, trying to figure out what works for me, and refusing to give up. Because I believe greater things like ahead than any I can leave behind.

Feelin Fit

Healthy living is very important to me. I see it as a way to respect my Creator, by taking care of the body and life He has entrusted me with.

One of my coworkers has been generous enough to let me use an extra FitBit she had at her house, so I have recently taken to tracking my fitness, food intake, water intake, and sleep with that program. It has been good to track my progress and ensure that I am working toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I have been logging my workouts and runs for a couple years now with other programs like MapMyRun, but have now added a few more aspects of healthy living to the mix.

I like that my steps, stairs, and calories burned are recorded for me so that I can continually challenge myself to improve in those areas. Having these numbers right at my fingertips has motivated me to park a little farther away at the grocery store, take that extra trip upstairs to retrieve something instead of putting it off until later, and make sure I don’t sit for too long at my desk without taking a break. Coupled with regular workouts and healthier eating, I feel that these more subtle changes are helping me live the healthier lifestyle that I aspire to.

Through this process, I also have become more aware of how much water I consume, making sure that I drink enough every day to stay properly hydrated. I have been paying more attention to how much sleep I’m getting, too, and can monitor the trends over time to see if I need to make any changes to my habits.

I can monitor my food and activity alongside one another to see if I am maintaining a relatively even input and output of energy, too. Entering food items with a long list of ingredients can be time-consuming, but I primarily eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. I try to stay away from heavily processed foods that have ingredients I can’t pronounce and incredibly high levels of sodium and sugar. I have noticed that I don’t feel too great when I consume too much sugar or processed grain, so I have begun limiting my intake of those substances in order to feel my best. Healthier foods pair well with regular exercise, getting me one step closer to living the life that I’m aiming for. As I see the list of my frequently-logged foods grow to include more produce and lean protein, I feel better about the things I decide to fuel my body with, knowing I’m making good choices.

Having a way to document my activity levels pushes me to continue working hard to pursue a healthy and fit lifestyle.It’s been fun to challenge myself to climb more flights of stairs or walk more miles than I did the previous day. When I see that I’ve been steadily increasing the distance of my runs or the amount of weight I can lift, I’m encouraged to continue growing and striving for new goals.

What steps can you take to live a healthier lifestyle?