One of my mentors used to say, "There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs." When it comes to physical health, there are plenty of people out there buying into elevator philosophies—pills, powders, fad diets, extreme exercise plans ... you name it. Why?
Because making an ongoing lifestyle change sounds a little too much like taking the stairs. It will probably even require walking some literal ones! Something within us wants to opt for the quick fix. But quick fixes always lead to short-term results, followed by a face plant right back into the condition we were in before we started.
Think, for example, about the many popular diets that advocate losing weight by cutting out carbohydrates. Sure, that elevator will take you to a skinnier floor, but only as long as you stay on it. The problem is that eschewing carbohydrates for life isn't only unrealistic, it's not a nutritionally sound approach to health. Your body needs good carbohydrates to function effectively.
As soon as you start eating them again, the weight returns with a vengeance and you are back on the ground level, if not in the basement. Health-related shortcuts will only put you further behind in the long run. The only way to get and stay physically well is to commit to an ongoing healthy and balanced lifestyle.
An Original Renegade
As I began my journey toward health, I found myself particularly interested in studying the life of Moses. Moses was the leader of over a million people, serving as a counselor, an advocate and a judge. He led a life of vision and momentum, leaving a legacy that still lives on thousands of years after his death. Talk about someone who abandoned average in passionate pursuit of God's plans! Moses was one of the original renegades.
Moses wasn't only renegade when it came to his ministry; he was also renegade in his approach to health. Look how he is described at the end of his life: Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever.
Moses was strong as ever at 120 years old, while most of us feel the wear and tear of age by our early 40s. Of course, we live in a different time than Moses, but we can draw some pretty accurate conclusions as to how he took care of himself from what Scripture tells us about his lifestyle. We know he stayed active by walking a lot (as documented throughout Exodus), he ate only the portion of food that had been provided for him each given day (Ex. 16:4), and he communed intimately with God (Ex. 33:11).
As I am getting older, I have developed a passion to live a long life. I want to live to be at least a 100 years old, just like Moses. But I don't just want to suck air until I'm 100; I want to be healthy, strong and productive until my last day. I want to make a difference with my life and impact others for as long as possible. Just like Moses, I want to honor God with the health choices I make so I can experience the full measure of what he has for me. How about you?
Moses adhered to a lifestyle that, along with God's help and grace, allowed him to live to a vibrant old age. In order to become a healthy renegade, you also have to adopt a lifestyle of health—one that honors God and that he can honor in return; one that sows seeds of physical vitality and strength rather than seeds of sloth and sickness. To get there, focus on making ongoing lifestyle changes in four areas:
- How you eat.
- How much you move.
- How well you rest.
- How you handle stress.
Here is an overview of some of the keys to making sustainable lifestyle changes and achieving health in each of these areas:
Eating—To begin eating for life, you have to do two primary things—eat smaller quantities and focus on foods that will give your body the nutrition it craves. In the Bible, God gives specific instructions for the types of food he created to keep our bodies thriving.
Unfortunately, you and I have largely traded his diet advice for nutritionally defunct helpings of speed and convenience. Worse, the foods most of us have trained our bodies to love are the very foods that keep us slaves to excess weight, inflammation and chronic illnesses. Getting healthy means moving away from food choices that lead only to temporary pleasure and ultimately to death, back toward life-giving nutrition.
Moving—We were made to move, but given the nature of our work most of us spend our days sitting down. This is more dangerous than you may think. Current research shows that physical inactivity significantly raises the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity. A sedentary lifestyle is the new smoking. But don't worry—there are ways to work regular exercise and more overall movement into your life without having to become an Olympic athlete. Small, simple changes in how you move your body can go a long way.
Resting—How much sleep did you get last night? Did you take a Sabbath last week or did you feel like you couldn't afford to? (For a powerful resource on the power of the Sabbath, including a 30-minute Q&A session, visit healthyrenegade.com.) Rest is critically important to keeping you and me healthy now and in years to come, but we always tend to think we can get by with a little less of it. We like to pat ourselves on the back if we sleep less than the next guy; it makes us feel like we are more hard-core, more productive—but that's a fallacy. There is nothing positive about giving up sleep in the name of getting more done; usually the approach backfires anyway.
We end up getting less done because we aren't as alert or focused as we would've been if we'd allowed our bodies to rest properly. Not to mention, lack of sleep leads to a whole host of physical downfalls over time. To become a healthy renegade, you have to start resting like one.
Renewing—Chronic stress is as detrimental to your physical health as deep-fried foods, couch sitting and lack of sleep. It raises cortisol levels in your blood, which leads to a weakened immune system and a wide range of chronic physical conditions. Learning to manage stress well is essential to being healthy—and this goes far beyond issues of time management and delegation. Instead of thinking about how to squeeze more into your day, ask yourself if you are harboring resentment against someone. Do you have a bad attitude about a situation you are facing? Questions like these can give you a clue to the state of your emotional well-being. If you want to live a healthy life, you have to make sure your heart and mind are at peace no matter what's going on around you.
Excerpted from The Healthy Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Health and Wellness by Nelson Searcy, Steve Reynolds and Jennifer Dykes Henson, published by Church Leader Insights with Nelson Searcy, 2015.
Nelson Searcy is the lead pastors of the Journey Church with locations in New York City, San Francisco and Boca Raton, Florida. He is also the founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network where he coaches and equips thousands of pastors. He is the author of 14 books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry, and has lost more than 70 pounds in the last year.