How to Be 'Spiritually Strong'

Author, speaker and personal trainer Kristen Feola's 6-week guide to building your body and soul

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- Posted on May 8, 2015

woman wearing pink workout clothes and flexing her arms with pink weights

Editor's Note: Welcome to Day 11 of Guideposts' 14-Day Fitness Challenge! We're sharing stories that will inspire you to eat better and get in shape so you can feel your best. Today's challenge is to make a plan for your spiritual healing. If you're just joining us, check out our previous challenges here.

Need motivation to get healthy, but tired of self-help books touting calorie-counting and cardio?  In her new book, Spiritually Strong,  Kristen Feola says living a healthy life is not just about fitness. It's  also about faith.

"Spiritually Strong is unique because it hits on several different aspects of the Christian life and looks at them as necessary disciplines," she tells Guideposts.org. "The biggest connection is between the physical and the spiritual. Too often, we don’t  dig deep enough to see how important it is to be strong spiritually in order to take care of yourself physically, and vice versa.  I believe it needs to be highlighted."

That's why she breaks down both the physical and spiritual muscles people should exercise for a healthier life. She also provides a 6-week Bible study and workout plan so people can understand the relationship between the physical and spiritual self. 

Feola addresses the disconnect some people feel with their bodies. She explains that the body is sometimes misunderstood and mistreated as a source of shame and uncleanliness.

"So many people have had negative experiences, whether it be abuse or something traumatic, the body has been violated. So,  it’s very difficult to see themselves in a positive way and their bodies in a God-honoring way. Shame is a huge factor in our society unfortunately," she says. 

Her goal is to help people see the body as the holy creation God intended it to be. "I hope to help people realize that the body is a gift and no matter what has happened, God has created each of us with a purpose. We’re beautiful and unique and should celebrate that. There’s a lot of healing that has to take place in bringing people to that point, but we need to know how wonderful our body is. We’re all different and that’s okay. We need to learn not to compare ourselves with other people but just celebrate how God created us."

Feola speaks confidently on the issue of unhealthy, emotional eating because she's overcome her own issues with exercise and food. In the past, she found so much validation in working out and being lean that she became obsessed with exercising, staying in the gym for hours a day., both as a personal trainer and for her own benefit. People assumed she was anorexic, but she says she was spiritually anorexic, starving her spiritual core and becoming self-absorbed.

"It was something I knew was happening but I didn’t want to acknowledge it  because working out was so important to me. That as where I found my identity," she says. "It was easier to workout than to do the hard work of looking at my heart and the unhealthy attachments there and how I was turning to exercise and at times food for comfort, for things I should’ve been finding in the Lord."

READ MORE: A PERSONAL TRAINER DISCOVERS SPIRITUAL FITNESS

She's not alone. "I think a lot of people can identify with that. We search for satisfaction in things that were not meant to satisfy us. And so it is a process of retraining your mind and learning to see myself as God sees me. Focus on what His word says about who I am and who others are and keep things in a godly perspective instead of a worldly perspective."

Feola was able to retrain her mind and remember who she is in Christ by doing one important thing: "For me it was literally opening up the Word of God and reading it aloud allowing myself to hear the truth, so it would sink deep within me," she says. "The more that I did that, the more I found myself believing it.'

"That has helped me tremendously and I just quote those verses in prayer. It gives me strength. I do that every day. A person can read books, but really, the Word of God is what sets people free."

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