Cans of tuna and lettuce with salt weren’t an uncommon lunch for one little girl a few decades ago. She may have been walking the elementary school halls but weight and body image plagued her thoughts. Insecurity was her bestie. Although she was not at an unhealthy weight or size, she followed the Weight Watchers Plan, hopeful a diet could erase her negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings.
In college, she toyed with binging and purging, both with exercise and with laxatives. She tried every diet, pill, gimmick or quick fix advertised, but nothing freed her from the thoughts that held her captive.
This woman knew Jesus, yet she still struggled. But one day, everything changed.
Meet Teammate, Marsha Apsley.
Marsha knows the true freedom Jesus died to give. She knows what it’s like to give Him the struggle and then take it back from Him – over and over again. But, she also knows breakthrough.
“When I turned 40, I read ‘Made to Crave’ by Lisa Terkerst. In it, the story of the Israelites is highlighted, and God told Moses, ‘you have circled this mountain long enough, now turn north.’ So at 40, I turned north – and that was over 7 years ago!”
“My life is not about a big transformation in my waistline, but more importantly a transformation that took place in my mind and how I learned to be fit and free – to fully live the life Christ has for me.”
Marsha knows what it feels like to be stuck, and what it is like to be alive in Christ. She now owns her story and uses it to point people to Jesus as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and author. This is her story of living fit and free.
What was the first step you took in your transformation process?
I changed my mind. I had to quit the pursuit of weight loss. I had to replace the “how can I lose weight” thoughts with God’s Word.
What does living fit and free mean to you?
To live fit and free means living a healthy life not tied to a diet plan or a number on a scale. It means living in a way that honors this age and stage of my life. I do things that lead to health – drink plenty of water, move regularly, get rest, eat in ways that nourish my body and gives me energy – but in a way that leads to freedom, not in bondage to a plan or program.
How would you describe the difference between a diet and a lifestyle?
A diet is something you go on and off. If you can’t see yourself living this way 5, 10, or 20 years from now, then you’re on a diet.
A lifestyle is how you live 365 days a year. A healthy lifestyle is one that is sustainable in the long-term.
Many women feel the need or have been instructed by a healthcare provider to lose weight. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, what would you challenge her to think about or pray about as she takes steps to improve her health?
Identify why weight loss or changing a habit is important. Weight will always change, whether it’s half a pound, 5-10 pounds, this way or that. If weight never changes here are 2 questions to ask:
- What can you do for the long term that you enjoy?
- Are there ways that you can better honor your body?
How do you straddle the tension of setting goals to improve areas like your health and fitness without getting caught up in body dissatisfaction?
Rediscover my why.
Stay away from the scales.
Do things that build confidence.
What are 2 healthful patterns or rhythms you have created to help you feel confident in your body?
- Minimal time in front of the mirror – I just don’t have time for that. If I spend too much time in front of the mirror, I’ll go off on a tangent of what I need to change. I rely on what I know: I am consistently living a healthy life. I feel good about that.
- Exercise – Regular movement boosts my mood, makes me feel strong, and releases stress.
What do you do when you feel guilt or conviction from a food or lifestyle choice that wasn’t beneficial?
- Remind myself that I can turn things around at any time. We are always one choice away.
- Assess how I can handle that situation differently the next time.
- Recognize how it was not beneficial for me – causing fatigue, upset stomach, etc.
- Determine that I’d prefer not to have that feeling again.
If you were sitting down to coffee with a friend who was utterly frustrated with her weight and how she looks, what words of encouragement would you pass along? What practical steps would you recommend?
I would remind her that God does not judge her by her looks. In fact, He looks upon her as His beloved child. Just as we look at our children with complete love, He does the same at a level we can’t comprehend.
And then I would encourage her to choose to do one thing on a path toward healthier living. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with changes she may need to make that will lead to a healthier body, I would coach her to start with one thing. This could be as simple as an extra glass of water today or a ten-minute walk outside.
Healthy doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s when we make it hard that we never do anything to initiate change in our lives to be fit and free.
Small, Simple Steps + Consistency = Progress
Share a favorite easy recipe or go-to snack that keeps you energized and nourished.
I have a sweet tooth. I would never encourage anyone to give up any food or food group. Having a little chocolate with my morning coffee is very satisfying.
My after-dinner dessert: Place a small container of plain greek yogurt in the freezer while you’re preparing and eating dinner. By the time you’re ready for dessert, it is frozen just enough that it’s like ice cream. Add a few chocolate chips, fruit, a little syrup, or a favorite ice cream topping for a tasty sweet treat!
Has there been a scripture that has inspired you?
There are two scriptures that have helped me walk out my freedom:
Deuteronomy 2:3 (AMP) ‘You have circled this mountain long enough; turn northward,’ This verse changed everything. I was about to turn 40, and it finally hit me. The Israelites had wandered for 40 years. It was time for them to stop wandering and turn north. God was telling me that it was time to stop circling the mountain of diets, gimmicks, and quick fixes and turn north.
I Corinthians 10:31 (NIV) “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” God is interested in everything we do. What we eat and drink does matter to God. He wants to be involved in all of it, and we can do all things to bring Him glory.