One of the weirdest things about social media is when you look up something, or just have a conversation about it, and ads start popping up on your feed almost instantly. It’s so weird! And I know that there are “cookies” and other pieces of tech out there telling Facebook and Instagram what to throw on my feed but it doesn’t make it any less creepy sometimes. I noticed this phenomenon again once I started getting into the fitness industry and these ads started popping up with classic marking prompts like: “Get Shredded in 40 Days!” or “30 Minutes to a Toned Belly”.
While not everyone in the fitness world uses these gimmicks to attract customers, a lot of them do.
So many of the programs out there are focused on being in better physical shape for the sake of health alone. Don’t get me wrong, being healthy is good and we all need to strive for it, but as Catholics, we’re able to understand that we don’t strive to be healthy merely for the sake of health. We are drawn towards a deeper end. We strive to be healthy for the sake of serving God and our brothers and sisters. By placing the health of the body as the only goal and reason for fitness they have made an idol out of feeling good and being physically fit.
It might sound a bit odd but I have seen so many people put their bodies through crazy workouts, eat nothing but chicken and broccoli, and not touch a drop of anything but water simply for the sake of looking good and being healthy. Once again, they have turned feeling and looking good into an idol.
Now, on the other hand, you can just as easily find fitness professionals who stress the importance of being “spiritual”. Quite often these are referring to eastern styles of meditation and/or types of yoga that they use to clear their heads. For the Christian however, meditation is a fundamentally different practice.
Meditation, for us, is not an emptying of the mind for the sake of relieving stress. Rather, it is an invitation to the Holy Spirit to fill our mind for the sake of finding peace in him.
The thing that the “Get Shredded” camp and the “Be Fit and Spiritual” camp have in common is that everything is still dis-ordered. I mean this literally. They have placed the health of the body above the glory of God. They have idolized their health on the one hand and misplaced their spirituality on the other.
Finding truth in the synthesis of these ideas is actually very simple in thought but harder to achieve in practice. Below are my top 3 tips for creating a healthy exercise attitude.
1. Check Your Motivations
Why are you wanting to be in good shape? Why do you want to lead a healthy and active life? Is it simply to feel good? Or is it to serve the greater good?
I love the way I feel when I’m hitting the gym and being active consistently. It’s awesome! But ultimately, by being in good health, I can serve and support my family. I have more energy to volunteer at church or participate in a service project. I find it easier to sit down and pray. And all of these things empower me to be more open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings in my life.
The goods and joys of bodily health are consequential but not essential. They’re the perk, not the point.
2. Don’t Turn Grandma Down
Secondly, unless you are struggling with weight loss, have a major health condition, or are a professional athlete, I would encourage you not to be the guy at the party who turns down what grandma is offering you because you’re on a “diet”.
Don’t turn down grandma, that’s rude!
If you’re dieting, and you know there’s a party coming up that is worthy of celebrating, then simply cut back on the calories at breakfast and lunch and free up some space in your daily intake so you don’t have to turn grandma down (keep an eye open for a future blog about daily calorie intake). Life is more than just eating perfectly and working out all the time. Have the beer. It’ll all be ok.
3. Y’all Need Jesus
Lastly, if you are struggling with one of these then I invite you to turn to Jesus and ask him to give you the grace to renounce the idolatry of health for the sake of health and not service. Ask him to guide you and give you the prudence you need to be healthy, active, and motivated for his glory and to serve your brothers and sisters.