This is a first in a series of confessions from me. I pray my own wrestling brings hope and health to you.
So late last month, I penned a prayer to the Lord about my frustration with my weight. You can read it here:
Although I eat well and exercise fairly consistently the scale does not move. Of course I know a lot of this has to do with mid life and the changes that inevitably come. But I can’t tell you how frustrating it is (or maybe you know?) to try-try-try only to face failure every time I step on the scale.
I have searched the Scriptures about this. I know my body is a temple of the Lord and it deserves nourishment and respect. I understand that my time on earth is short, and that I must steward the health God has given me in order to fulfill my calling for the kingdom of God. That’s why I eat as close to nature as I can, and I move my body consistently.
But I’m also disturbed at the overemphasis of weight in our culture. I can’t find Scripture about that. If anything, I see Scriptures like this and I wonder if food has become an idol to me, to others?
“If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: “don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? All these [regulations] refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.”
I’m a good little rule follower. Tell me to intermittent fast, and I will. Tell me to avoid carbs, I’m your girl. Tell me to treat whole food groups as if they are Satan himself? Gotcha. But all this has done for me is cause bondage. The freedom God has hard-won for me leaves the moment I submit myself to these human-made rules.
Not to mention, this is an argument of privilege. Because I live in a prosperous zip code, I have the option to choose. I don’t live in a food desert. If I believe that a specific diet is optimal for me, then what does that mean for others who can’t afford it?
The other issue is that by focusing solely on diet, I concern myself with things that may not matter in the kingdom. Jesus said, “But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of approval” (John 6:27). If I am expending energy on this, I don’t have the proper energy to spend it for the kingsom.
I’m coming to a place of health–albeit slowly. I am listening to my body and desperately trying to speak life over it. For far too long, I have berated it, made fun of it, wished it were different, lamented its shape. And all this while I’ve been healthy. In September I climbed a 14,000+ foot mountain! I can run several miles. I’m in good shape.
What does it mean to honor Jesus with our bodies? It means taking care of them, yes, but it also means learning contentment in today–even when you’re not where you want to be. It means silencing that inner bully (and that is not an easy thing to do). It means treating your body as you would a dear friend’s. You wouldn’t shame your friend, would you? You wouldn’t make fun of their shape, right? Well, then, why do that to yourself?
I have been enslaved to food rules off and on for many years. I still struggle with them, and, to be honest, I only see freedom from a distance. So I’m writing this blog post in hopes to start a discussion, and to tell you how very, very human I am.
Here’s the irony of that prayer I prayed at the end of October. Right afterward, I went to step on my scale, only to realize it needed batteries. No problem! But after I added the batteries, the scale malfunctioned and told me I weighed 112 pounds. (I am five foot eight; I can assure you I don’t weigh 112!)
I laughed. Then recalibrated only to find I’d gained three pounds and now weighed 115. In that moment, I sensed God’s laughter alongside me. Weight is a number on the scale. It does not measure our faithfulness. It cannot endow us with worth or worthlessness. We give it that power.
True freedom involves the discipline of taking care of ourselves married to contentment with the outcomes. The Good Lord has blessed us with food in order to celebrate (feast), sustain our daily lives, and fuel our work for him. When we deify or demonize food, our obsession either way turns into idolatry.
Lore Wilbert offers a beautiful perspective here, if you’d like to further explore these ideas.
Let’s continue to talk about this. Let’s dig into the Scriptures, remembering that God doesn’t see as we see, and his requirements of us often differ wildly than the expectations our culture fastens onto us.
I have struggled with my weight since I was in high school. I extremely restricted my caloric intake. My weight has been 20 pounds heavier than I was in high school and I am now back at that high school low. My activity level and fitness has also fluctuated over the years.
My former husband used to call me the “fat police” as I tried to encourage healthy choices for our kids and now I have an adult son who is 6’5″ and was an offensive lineman and how is a former shadow of himself. He also struggles with the number on the scale. I have a daughter who is also a young adult who has gained a lot of weight over the past 4 years. She has some medical issues and, I think, is trying to be more careful about what she eats.
My husband and I eat generally healthy foods. My husband exercises regularly and he just had emergency surgery because of a 99% blockage of his widow maker artery. So, we are trying very hard to eat an even heart healthier diet.
I guess what I have struggled with is the idolatry of food and the idolatry of our bodies. There seems to be so much out there on social media about fat shaming and women should love their bodies as they are. I think we should love our bodies, but do we use this as an excuse to live a gluttonous life? A life where we don’t deny ourselves and say “no” to the chips and cheesecake and “yes” to the fruit and yogurt? Can we live in moderation and be happy with the body that results? I think THIS is where we should rest, but how many of us are there? I know I am not. I am VERY careful about what I eat and often think about the days when I was not quite so careful. I was probably 10 pounds heavier but I did not like the way I looked or felt. Now that I am in my early fifties, I think that my very thin face makes me look older than I am, but that number on the scale dare not be trespassed.
God gave us the creativity to make culinary delights. God desires us to be disciplined. He has given most of us the ability to exercise and move our bodies. He, in the wealthy west, has given us a bounty of foods to choose from. O Lord, show us the balance. How do we enjoy what you have provided for us, love our bodies as your temple, and bring glory to you in the process?
It’s certainly a balancing act of grace and truth.
Mary, I have been struggling with my weight all my life and I’m 60 now. This fall, I was lamenting that God “never’ answered this prayer to help me, and a voice in my head said, “I told you years ago to go to Overeaters Anonymous. Just like that. I went to an online meeting…a couple months later got a sponsor. Turns out God had much bigger plans (serenity, joy, hope) for me than a smaller number on the scale. Oh, the journey is just beginning, but the changes– already– are significant. I don’t feel the same way about my weight now and I have no doubt that God is with me on this one.
l love that you found a way through.
I also, am in the midst of the same struggle, with an addition of not being able to maintain my pre-covid routine of exercise. This story shared has given me the push to make the change. Thank you for sharing. Bless you!
I’m glad it helped Anita.
I’m in the middle of the same struggle. I lost 20 pounds over the last few months. While I still have some to lose, I thought I would look better. I’m still just as unsatisfied with my weight and the way I look as I was 20 pounds ago.
OH that’s so frustrating, Dedra.
As someone who ensured years of an eating disorder, severe anorexia years ago to bulimia not long ago, this resonates deeply.
I’m grateful it helped, Sabrina.