There is a fine line between a passion and an idol, and as a Christian, I try to have the self-awareness to know the difference. One way to find out is by asking the question, “How would I feel if this was taken from me?” Whether it is your evening hobby, weekend entertainment, nine-to-five job, following on social media, or that secret addiction you have, your answer may help you see the role it serves in your life. Now I say this, but honestly, in the 23 years and counting I’ve been around, I’ve noticed that sometimes that simple question is not enough for me. Sometimes it takes that very thing to be snatched from my life for me to finally see that it was an idol.
I have seen this happen with previous friendships. I have seen this happen with academics and test scores. In one moment, that thing can disappear, and the way you respond reveals its value. When it’s an idol, when removed, it feels like my innermost being partially peels away. It is more than sadness and pain, but rather, part of what makes me who I am tears, and I walk around on this earth with a hole in my heart. It is the opposite of feeling free. Easter Sunday was the last normal day I would experience for a while.
Monday morning, I woke up feeling off. That sometimes happens when I eat a little more than I should. I figured that was likely the cause. It did not hit me until a couple of hours into work when I realized I was sick and I mean, really really sick. Filled with body aches, red eyes, a spinning head, and everything in me begging to lie down, I felt miserable beyond belief. Soon after, I went to my parents’ place, crashed on the couch, and ate as if calories did not matter. This was only the beginning.
To give context, I have always thought of sickness like a rock in your shoe. It is uncomfortable and obviously there, but it should not stop you from walking. You learn to adapt. You push through. Typically, I’ve been able to drink a glass of orange juice, pop a pain reliever, and go to school or work. But this time, I was extremely sick. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch with an unlimited supply of cheeseburgers and fries with no-sugar ketchup on the side. All I wanted to do was “superset” between watching Netflix movies and sleeping next to my parents’ dog. Being active and going to the gym was out of the picture with my energy state. I love the gym and am passionate about working out, but I couldn’t. I was too sick to try. And at that moment, I knew I had stumbled into a test, with one question: did I make fitness and nutrition idols in my life?
I love training. I love tracking. Even when I am not at the gym, I spend a lot of time thinking about the gym. On my lunch breaks, you can find me creating new workout plans. On my daily walks, I listen to my favorite fitness podcast. The best part about grocery shopping is buying a variety of new foods and seeing how my body responds and performs with them. For the specific fitness goals I have for myself, I must track meaningful data such as the daily scale weight, total calories, and grams of protein. I take pride in the number of steps per day, my training intensity, and the clear body transformation. All to say, I love what I do. And because I love fitness so much, I wondered if it was an idol in my life. It has been before, but what about now? What about in this season of my life?
Over the next few days, I was undeniably in a caloric surplus. I was craving everything, especially that leftover chocolate from Easter. I was sleeping close to nine-hour days which did not include my afternoon naps. I was nothing close to active, as my step count was only a few thousand. I knew I was gaining weight, and I knew as long as I was off my meal plan and workout routine, I would not be progressing in the gym. That’s how it works. As sick as I was, this would be a massive step backward. I could not help but wonder how much weight I had gained, so on Wednesday, I decided to step on the scale and I was up ten pounds. The taste of true freedom followed shortly in the way I reacted to this unflattering scale number.
I chuckled. I did not feel destroyed. I did not feel less worthy. I did not feel like a failure. I chucked because ten pounds in a matter of a few days is outrageous, but it is not life-threatening. It’s not what defines me. One of the cons to training like a bodybuilder is I have to evaluate my results like a bodybuilder which is a more scientific way of saying I flex a lot in front of a mirror. I pay attention to these visual changes, and now that I’m sick and ten pounds up, my body has changed. The outline of my abs has disappeared. My face is carrying a lot more bloat. I do not look at crisp and tight as I did a week ago. That is frustrating. This sickness set me back tremendously. I’m not neutral about it, but I do not feel destroyed by it, and that difference means everything.
Because it is not an idol in my life, I have the privilege to see this situation more objectively. I understand that part of this weight gain is due to water weight. As my body is trying to repair itself, it’s holding onto every ounce of food and water I give it. Stress also plays a huge role in the way the body functions. As April 2022 has been filled with more suffering than I could have imagined, that affects my hormones, cravings, and my body’s ability to recover. My weight will fluctuate every day and for the rest of my life, and I have a lifetime to lose the unwanted weight. Once I feel well enough to reduce calories, I can lose the unwanted weight healthily in 8 to 16 weeks. It is not the end of the world. It will take a little bit of time to get used to the training intensity that I’m used to, but that’s just part of the process. One bad day or one bad week is not going to kill you. So in the meantime, I will enjoy that slice of pizza while getting some extra sleep. It’s about balance. But for the record, I think there’s a better way to do balance than the approach I “fell into.”
By the time you read this, it’s my first day back at the gym. My guess is I will be closer to up fifteen pounds, and my body is likely doing its best to remember what it is like to squat heavy. By the time you read this, my heart is re-adjusting to zone 4 and zone 5 training. And to be completely transparent, by the time you’re reading this, I have likely faced discouragement. I likely am beating myself up for allowing myself to get off track for so long. Because I will not be able to run as long and as fast as I could a week ago, it is difficult to not kick myself for it. Though discouraged, I am not destroyed because my worth is ultimately in something greater.
I share this story not to make me the hero, but to make Jesus the hero. For some, as you read this, your struggles with nutrition and training come to mind. For others, maybe there’s a different idol that creeps into the light. Worshipping is in our DNA, but nothing in this world will be able to handle the weight of our worship. You know this from experience. Nothing in this world ultimately fulfills us. It temporarily satisfies the craving, but it’s this endless chase for more. If my identity was in my body, fitness goals, and lowest scale weight, this situation would utterly destroy me. It would feel like part of my innermost being shattered. And maybe you’ve experienced this with that dream job you once had, that scholarship you thought would never get taken away, or that friend you thought would always be by your side.
What we have today is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow. We do not know what tomorrow will bring, and in one millisecond, everything can change. This is why identity must be rooted in Christ. Jesus is the same as yesterday, today, and forever. The Author of the universe is the only one who can fulfill our deepest longings. The King of the world loves us unconditionally, and nothing can take away His love for us. Jesus offers hope. Jesus offers certainty. There is another way to do life, and it’s by choosing to follow the Savior of the world.
My worth is in Jesus alone simply because the Creator of worth created me. My identity is in Jesus alone simply because He made me in His image. He knows me fully and fully loves me. It has nothing to do with my weight, workout routine, or anything else. He loves me because He chooses to do so unconditionally. He extends me grace because He chooses to do so. It has nothing to do with what we do, but everything to do with who He is. Nothing in this world will be able to fulfill us, so seek beyond this world. Seek Jesus. The gospel is the only reliable source of identity and worth. Would you be willing to try out my worldview?
DISCLAIMER: I, Kira Gauthier, am not a medical practitioner. None of the information I discuss in my content should be taken as medical advice. Talk to your doctor before doing anything that may have an impact on your individual health.
That being said, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge in the past couple years regarding fitness and nutrition. Though I am not a certified personal trainer, I believe I can point you in the right direction. Consider this site (Kira’s Coaching) an open invitation to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle, if you’re interested. I’m ready to get back into it. How about you?