Summer is upon us, and with it comes the onslaught of marketing reminding us to get “your best body for summer.” The messages are almost always tied to dieting.
Eat this, not that.
Do this workout so you can eat that ice cream cone or burger.
Lose a few pounds before you put on that swimsuit.
Magazine covers shout these messages at us, and Instagram and Facebook posts are prevalent. Even as women who love the Lord, it’s easy for us to get sidetracked by over-focusing on our bodies. I have been there, and chances are you have, too.
As a teenager, my subtle attempt at dieting morphed into a full-blown eating disorder. Restricting my food and fixating on my body size was how I coped with anxiety, worry, and fear.
I spent years in recovery, and the Lord brought immense healing into my life. God worked in my heart through discipleship, accountability, and counseling. He also used licensed registered dietitian Reba Sloan, MPH, LRD, FAED, to guide me away from dieting and toward intuitive eating. She continually pointed me to Christ, helping to restore my mind, body, and soul.
God’s Design Is Key, Not a Diet
As a young woman, Sloan herself struggled with anorexia nervosa before pursuing recovery and a career as a dietitian. She’s a fellow of the Academy of Eating Disorders and co-founder of the Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee and has a private practice in Nashville. She is passionate about helping her clients reach full recovery from their disordered eating or eating disorders, practice intuitive eating, and respect the bodies God gave them. She understands firsthand how dieting can negatively impact one’s relationship with Christ.
“Dieting disconnects us from our God-given hunger, craving, and satisfied signals,” she says.
If your body weight is higher than what you truly believe God designed it to be, find out why. Are you not getting any activity or movement in your day? Are you eating when you are not hungry? Or are you overeating? Be a detective. This will lead you to the concepts of intuitive eating. Trust the body God gave you. Appreciate the gift your body truly is from God.
Dietitian Kylie Mitchell shares helpful perspective on her blog about our physical bodies—our earthly tents that are temporary and will eventually fade away:
I want to be a person who takes care of her earthly tent (aka my body) well to honor God and bring him glory. But, I think a lot of times in our culture, making sure we manage our body size comes at the expense of time spent with God. Focusing my efforts on trying to be thinner than my body is meant to be in the current season of life distracts me away from God with the time that is required to be spent on rigid exercise routines, food rules and thoughts of feeling disgusting in my body. Because of this, I know that having fat on my body allows me to honor and praise God more fully. If excessive exercise and rigid food rules is required to maintain my body size, then that is not the body size I am meant to have.
If taking care of your earthly tent is taking away your focus from Christ, then it’s time to re-evaluate. “Clean eating,” meal-prepping, and exercise can become idols just like anything else. If you feel anxious when not doing these things, that might arise from the feeling that you are not in control, says Sloan. Ultimately, God is on the throne—not us. He is in control. Surrender your body image woes and food fears to Him.
Live as a Joyful Temple of the Spirit
Eating more broccoli won’t make you more godly. Yes, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). But perhaps that means getting more sleep, enjoying the birthday cake your best friend baked for you, and worshipping God through taking communion. Take a look at the full context of 1 Corinthians 6:12–20:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Paul’s emphasis here is more on sexual immorality and pursuing purity than on pursuing pure food choices. He states, “I have a right to do anything but will not be mastered by anything.” His words cut to the core of our fixation on body size and wellness. Food shouldn’t master us. Food shouldn’t make us feel anxious or shameful. Our workout schedule shouldn’t stress us out or be the primary source of our peace.
“God wants us to enjoy our food,” Sloan says.
That’s why He gave us taste buds. In the book of Ecclesiastes, we are encouraged to enjoy our food and drink three different times! We know that all food has been given to us to be enjoyed with thanksgiving. There are no food rules and no perfect way to fuel your body. If you are focusing more on your food choices than your relationship with Jesus, you may need to reevaluate your relationship to food, eating, body image, etc. You may need help to explore that issue.
Only God offers the peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), and even peace within our bodies. Skinny jeans in a smaller size, a perfectly paleo meal, or a new running personal record can never do this. God created our bodies to glorify Him. We are made in His image (Gen. 1:27) and made to praise Him. He alone provides joy, contentment, and satisfaction. Trust in Him.