Honesty Hour: Finding My Own "Healthy"

Wow it's been a while since I've written a blog post on Janie'sGotAChicken! Time for some Janie thoughts?

Anyone?

....No? :)

Well, even if no one reads these blog posts, writing helps me reflect and process and delve deeper into my own thoughts, emotions, and truths, and recently, I've been feeling nudged to open up and write a little bit about some things that have been on my mind and heart.

Come with me into the mind of Janie:

For starters, here's a song that describes what my year has been like emotion-wise and growth-wise. MercyMe puts real life suffering and genuine faith simultaneously into this beautiful song, which has reminded me to continually raise my gaze even when I'm hurting inside. Take a listen: Even If.

I can't exactly think of a good way to smoothly transition into this but here goes nothing... Okay so many of you know I have a fun little food blog on Instagram (IG) where I share meals and snacks and get to interact with people from all over the world, and I think it's pretty darn cool. I absolutely love having the account even though I get the weirdest stares literally all the time when I'm taking pictures of a colorful salad, smoothie bowl, or piece of chicken (duh). My favorite part of it is following almost 400 crazy awesome and beautifully unique fellow foodies and nutrition nerds (I say that in the most loving way possible) and getting to follow their lives and hear their stories. Every single day these ladies and gents inspire me with their creativity with meal and snack ideas, their enthusiasm, their encouragement and compassion for each other, their knowledge on nutrition and our bodies, and their seemingly endless variations on peanut butter and avocado toasts that never fail to surprise me. For me, having this IG account has been an outlet for creativity, education, outreach opportunities, and a place where I can just be me and share my passion and interest for food and our bodies with like-minded people.

However, not even a foodie IG account is always rainbows and unicorns (can we all just ROFL at the fact that the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino was an epic fail? :D Idk why I think it's absolutely hilarious...Is that bad?)  I've been learning some big lessons through IG, and recently I have had to protect myself with it. And my protect myself, I mean protect my mental health.

First of all, I've had to unfollow quite a handful of people that I used to follow like religiously. I have nothing against them as people, but to protect my mental health I've had to stop following accounts that post body pictures. I'm not saying it's bad, but cueing into my own head and heart I know that seeing those body pictures everyday -- whether that's at the gym or posing in mirrors at home -- it makes me go into whole new worlds of comparison, which is so incredibly damaging to me. It may not be for everyone, so if you get motivated by people who post pictures of their lean, strong, ripped, skinny bodies, etc., by all means keep on following them. I'm not saying there's a right or wrong way to go. But I will say, ask yourself if it's building you up or breaking you down. Secondly, and similarly, I now try to limit my time on Instagram and not spend endless hours at a time on it for the sole reason of just comparison. It is so stinkin' hard not to compare my body and my abilities to other people. I hate that I compare and get jealous, but I DO!! GAH! 

Lastly, on Instagram about 95% of the foodie people I follow are runners (or they do some kind of other super duper intense fitness thing). Eating healthy foods to fuel our bodies and being active are indeed two of the biggest ways to live a healthy lifestyle. I'm studying Nutrition & Dietetics at SLU, and obviously I think that's one of the basic things that most people know about being healthy, and I agree. But! (There's always a but :D) Recently I have been very bothered about something and almost antsy because it's been driving me up a wall -- and maybe it shouldn't, but I can't help it, so here I am writing about it. Feel free to disagree. But recently, I've seen on my Instagram feed and Instagram stories only one kind of "healthy" being promoted. Maybe it's just the people I follow, but RUNNING is the only thing ever being encouraged it seems like. 

It has actually become a little aggravating being surrounded constantly by people talking about it, and it's been challenging to me because of my physical pains and inabilities to run anymore (I'm going on 2 years-ish and it is flippin hard). And I know I come from a place with a tad bit of bitterness because I can't run, but even putting that bitterness aside, social media, magazines, books, and websites only ever promote running like it's the only way to stay healthy and be good for your body to lose weight, keep weight off, etc. But what if you legitimately cannot physically run? What if your body was not designed to run? What if it's not wise for your body type or health condition to run? This happens more often than not to the majority of people dealing with aches and pains and serious medical conditions. What if running isn't in the cards anymore? Are you hopeless in ever being healthy again??

People, websites, and social media need to keep this population in mind when talking about fitness. They need to be aware and make an effort to not single them out. I never realized this until running was taken away from me with my hip surgery and awful knee pains now. I think it's a problem, but it's something that can be worked on and changed a bit -- that is, awareness and inclusion of people with all body types and medical conditions, by promoting other DOABLE activities for living a healthy lifestyle other than just solely running which is not always a wise option.

I still think running is an awesome activity that provides so many health benefits and endorphins (I mean...cross country was my FAVORITE, so I get it! running is amazing!) and it's a great way to stay "lean" if that's your goal and you're able to do it. But having my favorite thing taken away by the snap of 2 fingers has been the hardest struggle and is still a struggle I face with the constant bombardment of runners everywhere and telling everyone to run whether that's on IG and other websites or in books and magazines. It could just be a part of my mental health that still isn't very strong and maybe it won't ever be, but this bombardment of hearing "everyone should run" has been getting to my head and spirals me down, which I know it shouldn't have the power to do so. That's why I've been trying to pass quickly over IG posts and pictures that I know will trigger my mind into going to places it shouldn't. I'm really trying to be mindful of these things. This whole "mindfulness" is something new to me actually!

This all may sound like the pettiest struggle ever with this whole running thing, but coming from a past of dealing with body image issues, it is a real thing. And this is not just on Instagram by the way -- hearing people in real life talk to me or others about their bodies or working out and running or whatever -- it's a battle in my mind that I'm always fighting when a conversation like this comes up. I love exercise but it's a touchy subject for me, as it brings up more feelings to the surface than I'd honestly like to admit.

{Side note: It's so freeing to be able to write what's on my heart and in my head, even if no one agrees or cares for that matter.}

I still have dreams to run even a few short miles again one day because it is something I fell in love with, but for the time being, I'm on a long journey of growth and learning. I'm on the long journey of figuring out MY "healthy" and learning that running is not everything. I will continue to fight the comparison thoughts on Instagram and promote (to myself at least for starters!) that there are numerous other wiser ways to move my body right now that my body will thank me for instead of hating me for.

Learning what works for you and your body is SO DANG IMPORTANT. Whether that's with food or exercise.

Personally, being forced to learn a new definition of the term "healthy lifestyle" after all of my medical conditions and pains that have come to the surface has taught me more about nutrition and overall health than when I was super lean and strong from solely being a long-distance runner. Not to mention, through this drastic change in my perspective on what "healthy" means and my inabilities to do so many things now, God has and is continuing to shape me into a maturing woman of faith with a firmer and firmer trust and foundation in Him and a love for Jesus that honestly I don't know how to put it in words. But it is oh.so.real.!! I am amazed at how God has used something like legitimate daily physical pains to plant seeds of faith in my soul. I'm not thrilled that was the only way to get my attention, but boy oh boy does he have it now ;)

And I hate it, but I still struggle mentally with anxiety, waves of depression, and uneasy thoughts of comparison and jealousy when I hear people constantly talking to me about running and things that I know have been taken away from me. God has allowed (and is allowing) trial after trial and long suffering after long suffering in my life with actual physical pain, but each one of these unique yet similar times of suffering is shaping me and teaching me more than I ever thought I would learn in life. The book-knowledge we learn in school does not compare to the deeper knowledge and realness of who God is and this mysterious and intangible but genuine hope that God produces through suffering.

It is a gift. 

That's almost painful for me to write bc suffering is suffering. Being in it, it's a heartbreaker -- a genuine heartbreaker where the pain is so painful, mentally or physically. But through the deepest of pain and heartbreak, if you can gather up enough energy to just lift your head up a little bit and whisper, "Jesus," he will work in you to produce an indescribable but sure hope in him. He will meet you, walk with you, and carry you when you have no strength, and remind you that he will win. And he has already won! And that is the best gift we can ever ask for. This life is a tiny blip in the bigger picture of eternity with Jesus. Suffering is SO not lasting because this life of sin and pain and hard long suffering is SO not lasting either. And ironically this intangible unseen hope that is rooted in the hearts of those whose faith is in Jesus is the most real thing there is in this life, and I thank God this is lasting

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And it is wonderful

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For those who don't know me, for those who know me but don't know me, and for those who know know me -- I am probably not always the most open person and I'm probably not always one that can easily make sparkling conversation with people, and I may be a quiet little mystery in your eyes whether that's through a cell phone screen, across the sanctuary at church on Sunday mornings, bypassing me on campus while walking to class as I'm usually in my own oblivious world of thoughts, or sitting a seat or two away from me in a classroom. It's not easy for me to open up. But to set the record straight -- although I'm quiet and awkward and may come off as stand-offish (I'm sorry if I do!) and although I'm mysterious and different from most girls, I really really like sitting down and talking honestly with genuine people and being real with one another. Why? Because it is so freeing.  I'm still not always good at this whole "community" thing, because it's new to me and out of my comfort zone to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with people, but I'm learning. I'm trying to be open to learning about openness :) I haven't had many relationships at all like this before that produce God-ordained flourishing just from a little bit of vulnerability. When/if it does so happen that I sit down with someone in the future, one of my favorite topics of conversation is 100% suffering. That probably sounds depressing to most and like I'm a big ball of sadness, but deep suffering and turmoil is what God has absolutely used to shape me and produce in me an unwavering love for Him that does not compare to anything else. So wanna know what get's me going? Let's.talk.suffering!! -- it's where God will always be the hero, though we may not see it clearly in the midst of it or we may not ever see it in this life. But we can rest assured that God is always faithful and his promises will come to pass someday in his timing. 

Suffering is a gift where I have seen God and the gospel come to life. And He has given me new life as well through every single trial. For that I am thankful.