healthy self careWho does your body belong to, and does ownership matter to understanding healthy self-care?

Does it Really Matter What I Eat?

Who could imagine that healthy eating is a form of self-care? I didn’t realize this until after my husband’s bout with cancer. Sure, I’d grown up vegetarian, and could recite the benefits of a plant-based diet from the cradle. But that didn’t mean that I actually used food to nourish and care for myself.

Instead, I used it as a form of comfort. I indulged in (mostly) healthy comfort foods (except for the pumpkin scones from Starbucks and the Häagen-Dazs® ice-cream bars, and the Panda Express, and the…). Who was I kidding? Myself. But I couldn’t understand why I had to buy new clothes every month.

And after Pedro survived cancer and officially entered remission, I continued to struggle. Ten months of cancer caregiving and ignoring my self-care needs had expanded my waistline (I gained about 50 pounds) and derailed my objectivity.

About a year after Pedro’s stem-cell transplant, he read a book on eating and disease. I can’t remember the title, only his takeaway: purge the three white rats from our diet. No, not literal rats (remember, I grew up vegetarian). But the three foods full of empty calories—white flour, white rice, and white sugar.

We started gradually. First, we changed our recipes to using half whole-wheat flour and half white flour. Next, we substituted brown sugar for white sugar. Finally, we made the switch from white rice to brown rice.

Who Needs Sugar, Anyway?

healthy-self-carePedro, our family’s breakfast chef ever since we had children, gradually quit using white flour and cut down on the amount of sugar he used in muffins, waffles, and pancakes. Sometimes, he even forgot to put sugar in the muffins altogether (the gaggle of sleepover girls graciously ate the muffins anyway. I didn’t notice his omission until I bit in to one and asked him if he’d changed his recipe).

I eventually went on a low-carb diet and exercise plan and lost the extra 50 pounds, but I still didn’t see the connection between self-care and my physical well-being. That took another ten years. Along the way I suffered from mild depression, unexplained, debilitating pain (most likely stress-induced), and feeling far from God.

In the last four years, my concept of self-care has changed. I used to think that self-care means getting a massage or a manicure. Now I know that healthy self-care involves a systematic program of taking care of my mental, academic/artistic, physical, and spiritual health.

A huge part of our physical health involves what goes into our bodies—the temples where the Holy Spirit resides (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). That means that our physical wellbeing has close ties to our spiritual wellbeing. The deeper my relationship with God, the easier I find it to moderate what goes into my body and to work hard to keep my body in shape.

I understand how out of balance we can become when we fail to take care of ourselves in any one of the four aspects of wholeness. That’s why this month I’ve chosen to focus on healthy eating by publishing a healthy recipe every day. The posts also serve as an academic and artistic challenge because I’ve learned how to use Photoshop enough to come up with different pins and graphics.

Out-of-Balance Self-Care

I also know what happens when we focus all of our self-care efforts on one aspect at the expense of others. We can quickly lose our balance. Holistic self-care requires constant contact with Jesus and asking him to guide our choices.

If we believe that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we have a responsibility and obligation to take care of ourselves. #selfcare #faith Click To Tweet

I invite you to the landing page for the series to find healthy recipes. Try one, or two, or all of them! Preparing healthy meals is a form of balanced self-care—not only for ourselves, but for our families.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

What aspect of self-care do you struggle the most in?


  1. Sometimes it takes cancer to awaken us to the importance of self-care and eating right. I lost 25 pounds since the beginning of this year and I feel so much better. It’s amazing how the weight can creep up as we age.

  2. I just started an elimination diet to reset everything (no gluten/dairy/eggs/corn/soy/sugar/caffeine/alcohol) but am coupling it with centering prayer and meditation. Mind-body-spirit. Congratulations on making such significant lifestyle changes! – FMF15

  3. Self care is incredibly important. I’ve been able to get my cholesterol and other numbers down by cutting down sugars, using salt substitutes, etc. I’m proud and feel good.

  4. Great insight Anita. We have reduced nutrition to stuffing down anything that fills us up. The body is important which is why Paul argues against the Gnostic ideology which was invading the early church. Caring for it is being a steward of what God has given us. I will look at your recipes!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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