by Elisha Joyce, Oregon blogger
“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. — 1 Corinthians 10:23
Our family has a list of ‘no-no’ words we don’t throw around lightly:
I can’t stand them. They are ‘dirty words’ around here – and, I always tell my kids: you are way to smart and classy to need to use these cheap words to communicate an idea.
A couple other ‘dirty words’ in our house are “skinny” and “exercise”.
Skinny is a burdensome word. It’s shallow, and base, and empty. It drives me crazy to see commercials about ‘being skinny’ or ‘getting skinny’; I just about come out of my skin when I read blogs that focus on how to get a ‘hot, skinny bod’ or where women flash photos of their ‘skinny’ selves as the ‘standard’ that all of us other women need to strive for.
Skinny means nothing, okay? Nothing at all. Skinny does not mean healthy, happy, or confident. Skinny does not mean fit. Skinny does not mean ‘good mommy’, ‘hot woman’, or ‘successful lady’. No – skinny just means ‘skinny’… and I’ve seen my share of ‘skinny’ that looks frail, and weak, and gray.
What the real goal should be – and what I tell my girls all the time – is: forget skinny, focus on healthy!
- Focus on how you eat and what you eat: Are you eating whole foods? Fruits? Fresh vegetables? Drinking lots of water?
- Be aware of your body: Is it strong? Is it energized? Can you make it do what you want it to do, and can you wear what you want to wear? Is it sickly? Is it tired? Does your body burden you, or do feel like you have control? How do you feel after you eat certain things and/or certain portion sizes?
- Watch your cravings: Are you in control, or do you eat mindlessly? Can you say no when you want to?
…Because the fact of the matter is this: our bodies are a reflection of our lifestyle. If we focus on a healthy lifestyle, obtaining a lean, fit body won’t be a burden and obsession – it will be a natural consequence.
The other dirty word is ‘exercise’. It’s loaded, and crushing, and heavy, and exhausts us before we even begin the day… and you will never hear me tell my kids to exercise.
I can just hear you now: What, Elisha? You don’t tell your kids to exercise?
No. Never. And I am directly opposed to all the ‘get up and move’ campaigns that are everywhere these days. Why?
Because I don’t want to raise kids that think they can out-exercise a bad food foundation. Period.
Every day in my house is a new day to impress upon my children if we eat out of boxes, wrappers, and fast food windows; if we eat mindlessly and indulge whenever we feel the urge; if we don’t understand how food impacts us physically; if we don’t cook and instead depend on corporations to nourish us – ‘exercise’ won’t do a thing for health.
What I also tell them is they should pay attention to the body they’ve been blessed with, and honor it. We must think – and choose. We must honor our body by using our body – by making it stronger, feeding it well, resting it when it needs rest, pushing it’s limits, and listening to it when it gives signs like sickness, weight gain, and weakness. I encourage them not to ‘exercise’, but to do what they’ve been created with an ability to do: play, run, jump, kick, skateboard, dribble; stretch; move; take a walk; breathe fresh air.
And, on the flip side, I teach them what is not honoring…
- It’s not honoring to our bodies to sit around all day playing technology…
- It’s not honoring to our bodies to be lazy…
- It’s not honoring to our bodies to make food choices that burden us with extra weight, and make us sick and tired…
- It’s not honoring to our bodies to be mindless with our health, our physical being, our existence.
See, I don’t want my kids to grow up with ‘skinny’ as a goal, or ‘exercise’ as a burden, or victims of their physical bodies, or fearful of food. I DO want my kids to grow up understanding that a healthy, fit body is a free body – and a healthy, fit body naturally flows from choosing the right foods and choosing to honor the bodies they were uniquely created with.
My heart is for my kids to take joy in owning, using, and moving their bodies – and, yes, that may mean they find joy in weight training, or running, or zumba – all those things we term as ‘exercise’ these days. But, again, they will do it by choice and from a desire to push their physical limits – not out of blind allegiance to the buzz word of our time. I want my kids to grow up – particularly my girls – with confidence that, even during seasons where their bodies will change (through age, pregnancy, life), self-control is always theirs… always.
I’m raising my kids to see that truly healthy children – and truly healthy adults! – are healthy and fit in mind first. They:
…intrinsically value themselves, and make choices that show it.
…understand how to be in the world without being overcome by the world.
…are honest with themselves and know their choices directly impact their overall well being.
…recognize they are strong.
…recognize they are powerful.
…recognize they are in control of what they become.
And, they, with wide eyes, see the mountain of life in front of them and can’t help but rise to the challenge, wield their body as a perfectly hewn tool, and climb.