You deserve to take care of yourself physically. Why? I’ll give you eight solid reasons.
“What’s your favorite kind of food, Mrs. Ojeda?” he asked as we sat around the conference table waiting for the Student Association President to arrive. I had agreed to help my husband, the school principal, sponsor Student Association—even though I didn’t work at the school.
“I love Indian food,” I told him.
He looked confused for a moment and then grinned. “Indian food as in, ‘How!’” he held up his right hand in the stereotypical Hollywood greeting between Native Americans and whites. “Or Indian food from the country of India?”
I blushed and laughed. I’d managed to stick my foot in my mouth during my first conversation with a Native American student. “Indian food from the country of India,” I said.
He laughed good-naturedly. “Whew! Because I couldn’t imagine you eating mutton stew!”
As I got to know him over the year, I learned to appreciate his quick wit and whacky sense of humor. The following year, his senior year, I had the pleasure of teaching him in English and Government classes. His intellect matched his sense of humor, and he was the only student to score near-perfect on the ACT test in the first six years I worked there.
Late last week, someone requested prayer for him during faculty worship. “He’s in a coma and it’s not COVID,” they said. My heart ached for his family, who I’d gotten to know over the years. I prayed. We all prayed.
But on Sunday we received word his brain had ceased to function. This has been a hard year. I couldn’t imagine what had happened. A car wreck? Maybe he had fallen and had a blow to his head. I knew he struggled when he went away to college and had come back home to the Rez to live with his family and work.
Gone Too Soon
From time to time he visited campus to see his younger siblings as they graduated from 8th grade or high school. We’d always chat, catch up, and say our ‘See you laters’ I didn’t want to pry too much, but I always wondered if he was happy. He’d put on a lot of weight since high school.
On Monday night, Pedro got home from a day away at meetings and I asked if he’d heard any news about our former student. “He passed away,” Pedro told me.
“Oh, no! Do they know what happened?”
“He went into a diabetic coma,” Pedro answered.
“I had no idea he had diabetes.”
“Evidently, he had no idea, either.”
We prayed for his family and for comfort for all who had known and loved him. Twenty-five is too young to die.
My Own Brush with Diabetes
I had my own brush with diabetes during my first pregnancy. A routine blood test showed I probably had gestational diabetes. A fasting blood-glucose test confirmed it. I met with a nutritionist, learned how to prick my finger to check my blood sugar levels, and worried my way through my final trimester.
Within hours of giving birth, the diabetes went away.
“What does it mean?” I asked my OB/GYN.
“It means you will be at risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes for the rest of your life,” he answered, “especially if you gain too much weight.”
And with that life-altering warning hanging over my head, I started a lifelong journey to learn how to take care of myself physically. Sometimes I’ve failed miserably. A thyroid condition caused me to gain weight about the time our girls started school. By the time I had my thyroid under control and felt healthy again, we moved to a new state and new jobs.
Eight months into the new jobs, Pedro got cancer. This time, it took longer to regain my health. I stopped taking care of myself physically for over a year while I focused on holding our family together and helping Pedro survive.
Even after I lost the 65 lbs. I put on during Pedro’s cancer, I still struggled with physical health and my body’s overreaction to any stress.
Why You Deserve to Take Care of Yourself Physically
You’ve probably seen those miracle diet ads, where a jubilant thin person stands inside ‘their’ old pair of pants. The advertisement claims the model lost all that weight in just a day, a week, or a month—depending on the miracle diet or pill.
You know fiction when you see it, but the struggle to take care of yourself physically can seem like a Mount Everest in your life. Maybe because, deep down, you don’t believe you deserve to take care of yourself physically. Let me give you seven reasons why you deserve to take time every day to take care of your physical health.
1. You deserve to live.
Yes, you deserve to live. God created you for a purpose and you deserve to live. But to live, you must take care of yourself physically. That means you fuel your body with healthy foods, you get enough sleep, and you exercise. Every single day. You deserve to live.
2. You deserve a better quality of life.
There’s getting along, and there’s living. You deserve to live life abundantly. Eating healthier foods takes more time. But you deserve to take the time to eat healthier (no one deserves a steady diet of fast food). Getting enough sleep takes time. But you deserve to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night (no one deserves to exist on five hours of sleep). Exercising every day takes more time. But you deserve to spend time exercising every day (no one deserves to be a couch potato). Doing those three things acts like compound interest in your bank account.
3. You deserve to start a journey toward health.
If you’re a woman, you might not believe me yet. We tend to think we have to do all the things all the time. We adhere to the unspoken woman code of work ‘til you drop, Superwoman doesn’t take breaks. But if we don’t take breaks to take care of ourselves physically, we’ll break.
4. You deserve to start your journey toward better health.
Even if it means your husband has to do the housework (he lives there, too, so why not?). Teaching your kids to pack their own lunches won’t stunt their development. Instead, watching you start a journey to better health will inspire your kids to stay healthy when they turn into busy adults.
5. You deserve to be smarter.
Believe it or not, eating healthier makes you smarter, especially eating cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts, and dark chocolate. These superfoods can slow down your cognitive decline, keep your brain primed to learn, and help you feel more alert.
Sleep makes you smarter, too. Fatigued people make lousy decisions. Adequate sleep and a regular routine of rest will keep you fresh and ready to tackle whatever life tosses your way.
Exercise makes you smarter, too, according to Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain author John J. Ratey. According to Ratey, exercise lubricates the brain and prepares it to learn.
6. You deserve to have improved mental health.
Scientists have made a clear connection between exercise and mood. Exercise improves our mood and helps prevent or help depression (depending on if you have started sliding towards depression or have already entered a depressive state). You deserve to take care of your physical health because it will improve your mental health.
7. You deserve to be stronger.
Eating a healthy, plant-based diet can improve your strength and recovery. Just ask one of the many vegan athletes who either grew up vegetarian or vegan or gave up meat. You can find a list of them here. They include bodybuilders, tennis stars, baseball and football stars, as well as runners, triathletes, and ice-skaters. You don’t need meat to build strength.
For a biblical perspective, check out the story of Daniel and the other captives who ate vegan, read Daniel 1:8-16.
8. You deserve the opportunity to see and do amazing things.
If you take care of yourself physically, you’ll have the stamina and energy to do amazing things. Hike the Grand Canyon after you turn 50, keep up with your grandchild and their adventures, and hike to amazing mountain meadows. You’ll spend your golden years enjoying life instead of sitting in front of a television battling disease and boredom.
If you haven’t taken care of yourself physically, you can start today. Any physical self-care beats no physical self-care. Studies show you’ll increase your life expectancy the minute you start eating healthier, exercising, and getting proper rest.
You Deserve to Take Care of Yourself Physically
You are worth the effort it takes to take care of. I know it sounds weird, but the liar likes to whisper in our ears that we aren’t worth the effort, we’ll never be healthy, and we should spend all our time taking care of others. He knows just which buttons to push to beat us down and cloud our vision.
I know. Regaining my health took decades—about the same amount of time it took me to realize I deserved to spend time on healthy self-care. Do I love exercising, eating healthfully, and getting seven hours of sleep a night? Not always. But I love the way I feel when I take care of myself. It takes practice, self-discipline, and uncovering false narratives about myself.You, yes, YOU deserve to take care of yourself physically! #selfcare Click To Tweet
When this post goes live, I’ll be hiking down the tallest mountain in Arizona (after having hiked up it). Not just because I’m crazy, but because I’m training to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim next month. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t walk around the block without resting. I weighed 190 lbs., had no energy, felt depressed, and hated just about everything about myself.
It didn’t happen overnight or because of a miracle diet pill. I made the changes slowly and experienced many slips along the way. I could take a photo of myself standing inside of my old ‘before’ pants, and it might almost look like those crazy diet pill ads. But now you know the truth. Getting healthier takes time, effort, and the belief you deserve to take care of yourself physically.
How will you choose to take care of yourself today?
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That is really sad to hear about that wonderful young man Anita.
As I read through your experiences today it struck me how many similar things we have had in our lives.
Great strategies, we really do need to look after ourselves.
Tea With Jennifer recently posted…Feeling overwhelmed? Me too!
Reading your story always encourages me!
Michele+Morin recently posted…Join Me in this Heartfelt Prayer of Hope for a Hurting World
How sad to read about your student. I so appreciate that you always encourage us all to take care of ourselves in every way.
Sorry to hear about your student. So many nuggets in your post about the importance of self-care. Already in my mid-fifties and my goal is to be able to still not shy away from the hiking trails and the skating rinks. Today I need to start doing some weight-baring exercises that I have not done in some time. Thank you for the motivation!
Walking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim! That will be so much fun. Yes, we deserve to take care of ourselves. Yet so often we think we must help and do for others first, and if there is anything left at the end, then we can take care of ourselves. I know I learned this early on, and so did many of my friends. But this is just a lie. We need to take care of ourselves, just like we take care of others. By not taking care of ourselves we are sending the wrong message.
Theresa+Boedeker recently posted…How to Appreciate Your Body
Wow, re: doing the rim-to-rim!! My crazy sister has done it three times with her husband.
Good luck to you!!
Anita, I am sorry for your loss, how sad for your student and his family. I do appreciate your eight reasons for taking care of ourselves. I know I always put my own well-being at the bottom of the list sometimes!
Donna recently posted…In Quietness and Trust We Find Strength
Thank you for this.
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Dear Anita, thank you very much for your candor and trust in sharing you story. I’d always thought your health awareness and focus had been a way of life for years. The remarkable part to me is your mental paradigm shift toward embracing your worthiness for wellness. That’s the self-sabotaging issue I fight with the most. Thank you for the inspiration to keep up the good fight!
Anita, it breaks my heart to hear of young Pedro. I loved the young man you described. Your own journey is truly inspiring.
Debbie+Wilson recently posted…12 Traits of Unsafe People that You Should Know
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of this young man.
One of the mental things I have to get over is that all the wrong foods I love really are not my friends. They don’t love me back!
Barbara Harper recently posted…When the World Weighs Heavy
I absolutely loved this post! I needed this today!
I have just begun a prayer and sweets fast ( am a sugar junkie) and wanted to not only help my body but my spirit as well.
I’m so sorry for your loss—that’s truly heartbreaking. Six months ago my regular blood test showed high blood sugar and high cholesterol, and a serious conversation with my doctor was all it took for me to change my sweet-tooth eating habits! I’m so grateful I had that wake-up call and now feel amazing… about to get retested and hoping a healthy diet has worked. Thanks for this reminder to us all—sometimes we need a nudge! 🤗