One kid wants a burger, fries, and a large chocolate shake for lunch. I scramble as I say no because she needs to cut the sugar, but oh gosh—how do I say no in order to encourage healthful eating while also encouraging body positivity? How do I balance teaching her to be thoughtful about what she eats, but not overly or obsessively conscious?
The other kid won’t eat anything but organic cheese puffs and sometimes yogurt.
Literally. She’s tube fed, so every day I blend the perfect nutritional concoction—complete with obsessive calorie counting and meticulous notes of micro- and macro- nutrients—and feed it to her through a syringe and g-button while we teach her to eat with her mouth. The “Failure to Thrive” diagnosis they won’t yet take off her medical record taunts me every time I see it, so I work overtime to make sure she gets everything she needs to grow and thrive.
As for me, I think I’ve had some popcorn. Maybe a granola bar I found at the bottom of my purse? Definitely coffee. Lots of coffee. I should probably drink some water before I get too jittery.
I say it to my kids: “Eat your broccoli, go outside, turn off the screen.” But, I need to do it for myself just as much as I preach it to my kids. If my body is going to be strong enough to do the work God has given me to do today, I have to ask: what’s fueling me?
Here’s the thing about a healthy body: it matters for me as much as it matters for my kids. I forget that—until I find myself struggling to get out of bed because my body has been running on caffeine fumes. It’s not about calories; it’s not about looking a certain way or getting my pre-baby body back. It’s not even primarily about modeling good choices for my kids.
Healthful rhythms make me a better mom.
Nutrition research reveals not all calories are equal; a cookie will not give a person the same energy that superfoods like blueberries or avocados will. Foods like spinach, garlic, and almonds are shown to help boost the immune system. When I eat healthfully, my body has the energy and strength necessary to live purposefully, to the best of my ability.
I know this, but I struggle against an all-or-nothing mentality. I scroll Instagram and see the filtered perfection—the 30-day meal plans that will change my life; the bits of bodies showcased to offer me a vision of my future self; the endless mosaic of could be, should be, would be.
I’ve gone after the filtered perfection, tried to control it all, but the fuel was wrong. I’ve tried throwing up my hands and neglecting healthful habits, but again—the fuel was wrong. Either way, I was comparing my habits against the habits of others, against an impossible standard.
With comparison as my fuel, envy became both my motivator and deterrent. All or nothing. And envy left me with a body that performed to the beat of, “I’m not good enough. If only, if only, if only.” Envy left me flat, with potential buried under a heap of, “I’m not good enough. I wish, I wish, I wish.”
As I swung between the all and the nothing, I remembered the ancient wisdom: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
It’s not really about me and this standard of perfection, is it? It’s not about looking around at everyone else, then dancing between controlling my family or my body and neglecting what’s good.
Healthful choices are not about building perfection; instead, they are the rhythms that build a life, a witness. If I want to do the work that God has for me today in the best way I can, I have to choose foods rich in nutrition and make time for exercise. But also, I need grace for the days or weeks when it’s hard.
So, here’s what works for me: I try to eat as healthfully as I can, and if I have a weekend of rich food, that’s ok. No pressure, no shame. I begin my regular rhythm again. I figure out what type of exercise works for me in a particular season, and I do that as much as I can. If life gets crazy, it’s okay. I pick up the rhythm again when I can.
New rhythms are hard, and beginning again takes a little willpower. But, when I remember to aim for good fuel, I find it’s easier to take that daily step towards caring for my body.
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Featured image courtesy of Lindsey Cornett
Shannon Owen is a Dallas-born Longhorn who loves books. She married her opposite– a Houston native and Aggie engineer who loves nothing better than a good lighting project. She and her husband, Lee, live in Houston and are active members of Houston’s First Baptist. Shannon has a passion for discipleship within the local church, and loves serving with student ministry and teaching Bible studies. She has written and taught for ministries such as Waiting in Hope, Abide, YouVersion, Hope Mommies, and Give Grace. Shannon has two little girls, Avery (8) and Kate (4), who take up the majority of her time with snack requests and messy art projects. You can connect with Shannon on Facebook and Instagram.