“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” Rom 14:8
I pray that through this journey, as we’ve investigated what it is to have a Theology of Health, you now better understand why we should strive to live life as optimally as we can. I hope you have seen the theological implications of your body, your eating and your exercise. I hope you can identify idolatry in your pursuit along with all the ways that your motivations can manifest into the glorification of God. So now that there is a firm foundation to the “ought” behind why we should steward our health, I want to leave you with some practical steps to help you make some meaningful changes in your life.
The first step is time management. For this I want you to pick up a book. I know. I know. More reading? Well thankfully it is a very short book that packs a huge punch. “Do more. Better” by Tim Challies has done more to revolutionize my health than any diet and exercise book. The premise focuses on how we steward our time to the glory of God. By stewarding our time better we end up having more of this precious, fixed commodity that we can then invest in things like exercise or preparing healthier foods. By being able to be more effective in your daily activities, you will clear the first hurdle that almost everyone has to deal with when initiating the journey to better health.
The second step is stress management. Chronic stress does more to erode your health then virtually anything else. Jesus understood this and is one reason why on the sermon on the mount He said these words in Matthew 6: 25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Unlike the world, secular medicine and psychology that tries to put a Band-Aid on the source of stress like medication, meditation or “mind-fullness”, Christians have access to the true solution to deal with stress through the Word of God. I would recommend “Stressed Out” by Todd Friel and “Trusting God” by Jerry Bridges as two resources that will help in this regard. By reducing stress in your life, both emotional and physical, you will immediately have more energy and desire to steward your health better through proactive means such as eating better and exercise.
The third step will be sleep. Once you are managing your time better and then start to have less stress in your life, you will immediately begin to sleep better. But did you know that there are proactive things that you can do to improve your sleep that will have huge implications on your health? Recent sleep research shows that by not getting the right amount of sleep or the right type of sleep it has a profound negative effect on our bodies. By taking meaningful steps to set a consistent bed time for increasing sleep and then performing “sleep hygiene” techniques to promote better sleep, you will soon begin to notice that all aspects of your health start to improve.
Fourth will be your eating habits. Food is something we all have to decide upon, some giving more thought into it then others, each and every day. Now I’m not going to give you a specific diet but more of some guidelines to help you start building a practical framework to healthy eating:
- Figure out how many calories you eat a day and discover your basal metabolic rate. Just like in getting out of debt, you need to know how much is coming in and how much is going out before you can develop a plan. Once you have this number I would suggest keeping a food journal for a week and using either a phone/computer app like “My Fitness Pal” or a website that lists food calories to help you better understand how many calories you are putting in your body. If your calories in are greater than your calories out, modifying that will be your first step into eating better.
- Try to remove refined foods. This one is more of my personal preference but I believe eating foods that are as close to their natural (God created) form will generally help guide you in your decision-making to choosing healthier options.
- Look for food allergies. This doesn’t have to be foods that make you break out in hives or go into anaphylaxis. Many people can have a mild allergic response where the body creates excess mucous that can lead to headaches or congestion. Another symptom would be general fatigue or difficulty thinking. Foods like dairy, wheat or artificial sweeteners & dyes are typical culprits. Try removing these foods for a period of time and see how you feel without them.
- Try to figure out what macronutrient percentages works best for you physiology. This would be the ratio of carbs, proteins and fats in your diet. Some people do well with low carb and high protein. Others function better with a balance like The Zone. Figure out what works best for you and stick to it. If you want to live optimally you will need to eat optimally.
Fifth is now exercise. By completing the first four steps you will now have a firm foundation to begin exercise by having more time, less stress, better sleep and sustained energy through healthy eating. When considering how much you need to start doing, the minimal required dosage for exercise for an individual to stop their health from eroding would be 180 minutes a week or 30 minutes 6 times a week of moderate intensity. Moderate intensity would be defined as 60 percent of your maximum heart rate (HR), which is normally determined by subtracting your age from 220. So for instance, if you are 40 years old, you will need to get your HR to 108 beats per minute (your pulse) and sustain that HR for 30 minutes 6 days out of the week. The mode that gets you to that HR is not that important at first. It could be walking, jogging, jump rope, hiking, dancing or performing housework. The key is that you get your HR up and you keep it there…consistently. Once you are able to make the minimal amount of exercise normal, begin to investigate different types of activities and find things you enjoy. If it’s not fun to you, you won’t do it consistently.
Finally, I want to take a moment to speak to those whose health is deteriorated through disease, disability or dysfunction. Even if your health has been compromised through your efforts or through God giving you something to deal with, within those circumstances God can still be glorified in you stewarding your health. God knows your heart and your motivation. If you are paralyzed for instance, taking the time to care for your body by preventing pressure ulcers or urinary tract infections while striving to make the most of your situation gives God glory. As long as you have some level of capacity to make good or bad decisions for your health, determining that you will make the best possible choices to glorify God and serve your neighbor is something you should strive for daily.
So in conclusion, I pray that this series has been beneficial by helping you consider the theological reasons why we should steward our health. I hope you can see now that if there is a way for you to improve your health through eating and exercise, that you will desire to do it. If there are results to be obtained where you could have an extra 30 minutes a day to focus and have the energy to read, imagine how much more Bible or doctrine you could learn? Then, apply that extra learning over the course of weeks and months and years. Think about how much more fruitful your walk could be if you had more energy and mental focus to serve your family, spouse and neighbor. Consider the example you could be to those who look up to you by caring enough to maximize your health decisions to love them better. These are real decisions that God has entrusted to us and my prayer for you is that you are motivated to steward what God has blessed you with for the good of those you love and for His Eternal Glory.
Dr. Joshua Trock is a doctor of physical therapy with a home-based practice that focuses on geriatric disease management. Dr. Trock lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and daughter. He attends Wayside Chapel and enjoys reading theology, outdoor activities and discovering how to get the most out of the amazing bodies God has blessed us with.