As a woman, I want to feel beautiful. We look to many different things to help us decide what that means: our size, our weight, our complexion, our style, our social class. …The list goes on and on. I have personally come to the conclusion that beautiful comes in all sizes, shapes, complexions and styles. What is most important is that we search for our beauty in Christ. One of the many ways we can practically live this out is by simply taking care of the bodies He has given us in order to glorify Him rather than trying to measure up to some worldly standard.

As a personal trainer, I have had the privilege to train some amazing women over the past six years.  I can honestly say that I see a unique beauty in every one of them — they all demonstrate the care and craftsmanship of God’s handiwork. Yet, rarely do they ever see the same beauty in themselves.

I would like to share with you the journey of one of the very dear women that I have had the privilege of working with. Nothing I could ever write or say could adequately describe the amazing beauty I see in her each and every time we meet. One of my greatest goals in working with her, as well as my other clients, is not only to teach her the fundamentals of fitness and nutrition, but to teach them to truly celebrate their own beauty in their current bodies — just how God designed them.

Meet Andrea. She is a 36 year old wife and mother of two children. She lives a very full life in serving her family, friends, church, and community. First impressions of Andrea attract you to her because of her natural beauty, her presence of peace, and aura of wisdom.

What did you think when you would look at yourself in the mirror growing up? What do you think as an adult?

As a very young girl, I always liked looking at myself in the mirror. My father regularly told me that I was the most beautiful girl he had ever known — and he still does. I felt confident and pretty. It wasn’t until around the age of 9 or 10 that I entered a heavier stage and began doubting those words of my father. I became more self-conscious of my weight and was critical of my physical appearance. Unfortunately, that negative way of thinking continued almost seamlessly into adulthood. Even now, I tend to focus on my problem areas when I look into the mirror. I still battle feelings of frustration, failure, and discontentment.

Why do you feel your weight/health got out of hand?

Growing up, my family enjoyed spending time together. Often, we spent that time around the table! My mother is an incredible cook and learning to enjoy food while practicing moderation was and still is a challenge for me. It takes balance and self-control.

What was the turning point for you in making the decision to lead a healthier life?

Multiple members of my immediate family struggle with diabetes and have experienced dangerous, life-threatening heart issues. When I realized that these weight and health issues were all around me, I began to become very aware of what I was choosing to put into my body. I know that I bring my own set of health issues as well. I have lived with psoriasis for as long as I can remember. Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease that makes me more prone to obesity and heart disease. Given all of these realizations while anticipating and planning a 10-year-anniversary cruise with my husband, it finally made sense — I wanted (and needed!) to get started with a healthier lifestyle.

What has God done in your heart to make you ready for a life change?

I would say that laziness is a controlling sin in my life.  He has revealed and regularly reminds me of the presence of this sin.  It is something that I have to consistently be intentional about giving over to Him. Without full submission of this toxic sin to the Lord, I am helpless to combat my own tendencies.

What lies have you believed about yourself pertaining to your inner beauty, your outer beauty, and your self-worth?

So much of how I feel about myself is tied to the numbers on my scale. It is unfortunate how many areas of my life are affected by my weight. My self-esteem, confidence, and desire to honor the Lord are all impacted by those silly numbers that I’ve decided mean so much.

This issue is particularly true in my marriage. I find myself making assumptions about how my husband feels about me that are truly ways that I feel about myself. These feelings often lead me to thinking that I am not a worthy mother and wife.

How do you feel that the enemy has played a part in your struggle? Why would he attack you like that?

By God’s grace, my husband and I have been gifted with an amazing marriage and two really fun, loving, down-right hilarious kids. He has been so good to us in this way. I know that the enemy would love nothing more than to destroy what God has done in us. Sure, we are flawed. Aren’t we all? Yet, I am honored to see how God uses our marriage to model Christ and His bride to those around us. He uses us regularly in the lives of others as we offer both pre-marital and marriage counseling. If I dwelled in my imperfections and did not let Christ redeem and repair me in moments of weakness, we would cease to be used for His kingdom in the lives of others.

He has also given me the amazing privilege of being the director of children’s ministry at our home church. If the enemy were to successfully destroy our marriage, family, or ministry, we would not be effective in the building of His Kingdom. Contributing to the work of Christ is my ultimate purpose as an individual, wife, and mother. Even more deceitful than outright destroying our marriage and home, the enemy can also keep us preoccupied with thoughts that really shouldn’t consume us — for example, weight.

How can God make you victorious in this aspect of your life?

He has given me scripture which I rely on daily. It helps to remind me that what makes me beautiful in the eyes of my Heavenly Father and my husband is not my outward appearance, but my spirit and who God has made me with His intentional craftsmanship. I pray regularly for a gentle and quiet spirit that would be honoring to both my husband and my heavenly Father

“Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3

What would you like to see when you look in the mirror? 

I would love to see a woman that is honoring the Lord in her words and actions and is satisfied with the temporarily imperfect results.

What kind of woman do you want to be and how does your health/fitness fit into that equation?

I want to be a great example to my kids — both spiritually and physically. I want to teach them good eating and exercising habits, self-control, and a healthy self-image. I want to see my body as a gift to my husband and honor him by making good choices in diet and exercise. Mostly, I want to be continually growing in my relationship with Christ. I know that will involve a constant battle of knocking down the idols of food and laziness and trusting Him.

At the end of each day, each work out, each spoonful of Nutella, each 5k, each bowl of taco soup from my mom’s house, each bike ride with my kids and each salad — I am still His daughter, and I am learning to rest in that.