Eating and Exercising God’s Way
From the moment my daughter announced her wedding date, my mind started turning. Surely, this would be just the incentive I needed to spur on my weight loss. I grew excited by the prospect of having a really great reason to lose weight.
But week after week after week passed by and I could never go more than two or three days of “eating right” before I’d just cave. I’ve never been skinny but these past few years have really been a struggle, as my age, the craziness of the past two years, and my thorough enjoyment of food are a really really bad combination.
A month or so before the wedding, my goal of being a thin and attractive mother-of-the-bride started to fade from the realm of possible and became the impossible. I told myself all kinds of things, such as: “The day isn’t about me, anyway,” and “so many women my age have this problem” but it didn’t really help with the deep disappointment that reverberated in my soul every time I looked in a mirror that day. And when the photos came–well, as is often the case–they looked even worse than the mirror.
This was just not how I had hoped to look on my daughter’s wedding day.
But, you know, I’ve been thinking about this whole subject for a long, long time. As I’ve traveled along in this world beside both slender and heavy people; athletic-looking and comfy-plump looking; overweight, just-right, and too-skinny people, I’ve come to understand something important in this discussion on eating and exercising–
You cannot tell a person’s relationship with food and exercise by their weight.
We’ve all run into those people who can eat junk food all they want and never gain a pound. Are they more godly because of this? We’ve also run into those people who seem to gain two pounds for each fry they splurge on (you may even feel like that’s you!). Do those few extra pounds indicate disobedience to scripture? What about the people that put fitness ahead of God and their families? Is this good or right? I hope the answers to these questions is obvious.
So this brings us to the fact that we must understand that this question of eating and exercising goes so much deeper than how someone looks. SO. MUCH. DEEPER.
Perhaps some reflection on the questions below would be helpful for all of us–no matter what our weight. There are some things we should all think about when it comes to food and fitness.
I’ve been working through this for what seems like my whole adult life. I have struggled so to find peace. And this has led me to ask myself some really important questions:
What is my motive to lose weight/be healthy?
How does it look to please God with eating and exercising?
I don’t actually have the answers to this yet but I have learned a few things (or, at least, am in the process of learning these things)–
In regards to the first question: What is my motive? —
• If I want to be thin for my own pride’s sake (to impress, to draw attention, to look better than others), that’s not the right reason.
• If I want to be healthy, that could be the right reason–if I want to be healthy for the right reason.
• If I want to be healthy in order to please and serve the Lord and those He has put in my life–then this is the right reason.
I’ve also learned some answers regarding the second question: How do I please God in this area of my life?
• There aren’t good foods and bad foods.
• It’s more about moderation and wisdom than it is about avoidance of certain foods or entire food groups or spending hours on a treadmill or at the gym.
• Consistent self-control and intentionality regarding eating and exercising–day by day, step by step– is so key. The latest fad diet or running a marathon might work…but these extremes rarely yield lasting results that keep us focused on the real reason we want to be as healthy as we are able to be.
God doesn’t say a whole about weight in His Word but we can gather a few things about this area of our lives from the following verses (this list is by no means exhaustive)–
Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit. (Proverbs 25:16)
We learn from this verse that there is nothing wrong with eating sweets– just don’t overdo it!
Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21)
So we learn here that we must avoid gluttony (excessive eating or drinking). Some self-examination is probably helpful in determining what excess eating looks like for us personally.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10:14)
This verse reminds us not to give eating and exercising a wrong priority in our lives. (Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 9:24-27 that a physical runner receives a perishable crown, but the race we run as believers yields an imperishable crown. How important to remember that we must keep our spiritual race the priority!)
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
It is important that we discern truth from error as health and fitness movements sweep over our cultures. Is this practice, routine, fitness philosophy, song I’m exercising to–are these things compatible with being a Christian? It’s too much to get into here, but it is safe to say that much occultism has swept into the homes of Christians through this area of fitness and even in how we eat (see here for an example of how it’s influenced fitness and here for a way it is seeping into how we eat.)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
We know that instead of eating when we are anxious we should, instead, turn to prayer. The answer for anxiety isn’t in food, it’s in keeping our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3). How funny that some of us (me, for example) turn to food when we are anxious–as if that will help at all. Emotional eating is a result of not trusting God fully for the present life we live and the days that lie ahead. It’s a lifelong journey putting this into practice for those of us that struggle with this–but we must keep working at it for it is a command: Do not be anxious about anything. That’s what it says. And so we must learn to trust and pray instead of eat.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)
Here we see that we are the temple of God. We should treat our bodies as such, eating in moderation and with self-control and keeping ourselves as healthy as is possible. Of course, ultimately, this is in the Lord’s hands so we never want to believe that we can avoid disease and death by doing certain things. While this may certainly help we mustn’t count on this. We all know the healthy runner who has a heart attack or the health nut who gets cancer. These things are in God’s sovereignty and, ultimately, we must surrender our health to the Lord.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
and this one, too–
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
From these verses we women (in particular) learn perhaps the most important lesson of all when it comes to this topic of weight: We don’t want to be consumed with what we look like. If we are known for anything, may it be that we fear the Lord. May it be for our service to Him. Our top priority should always be seeking the Lord.
The world tells us what we should look like. But the Lord obviously doesn’t agree or there would be a verse like this in the Bible about it–such as “Thou shalt be thin all the days of your life” or “May there not be found an overweight brother or sister among you.”
Please don’t hear me saying it’s okay to be an unhealthy weight. The Bible teaches us to take care of our bodies. But, in doing so, it is so important that we have a biblical perspective on this: It’s about balance and pleasing the Lord. It’s not about what others think of us or our obsession with being the best-looking 30, 50, or 70 year old around.
I obviously struggle in this area of my life. I am still such a work “in progress” and most times I don’t feel like there is much progress. Honestly, this is probably one of the most challenging areas of my life.
I hesitated to share this here…
I know assumptions are made when I share something so personal. Sometimes condescension or ridicule are in the thoughts of those reading, even if they are never spoken. This is a risk I take with this kind of post.
I have chosen to take this risk because I wonder if there is someone else out there like me? Someone who is working through the eating and exercising question. Perhaps today you just need to know that you are not alone. I am right there with you–looking to please the Lord in this area of food and fitness and trying to discern just what that looks like from God’s Holy Word.