This topic is very personal and sensitive for many people, so I just ask that you be gentle in any comments or judgements you might make. As always, respectful disagreement is welcome.
For a while now I’ve been on a journey of losing weight and creating a more healthy lifestyle. The kind of lifestyle that includes nutritious food in healthy portions, and lots of physical activity.
It’s been just over a year since I got fed up with extra weight, low energy and food addiction and started pursuing change. As I’ve shared on Facebook before, I started this journey by completing the 42 Days to Fit challenge, which I would highly recommend to anyone else.
My journey has not been straightforward. I’ve lost 13kgs since I started, but have taken several steps backwards in terms of healthy eating and exercise. And that mummy tummy is still not budging 😉
Losing weight is simple, but not easy. And the harder part is making changes that last beyond the weight loss, and go on to form a healthy lifestyle.
Like most issues though, I don’t want to just stop at the external and leave it there. I want to seek God’s opinion, and do what would please Him.
I think there are several issues that come into play here:
– Our bodies are part of God’s good creation, and what we do with them matters to Him.
– In marriage, our bodies are not ours alone, and what we do with them matters to our spouse.
– Overeating is a form of food wastage and is robbing from those in poverty.
I’ll go through these issues one by one.
1. Our Bodies Matter to God
Did you ever think about why God created us with flesh and blood bodies, instead of simply as spirit, like him?
I think part of this is simply God’s creativity, and part of it is the joy he takes in beauty.
God designed our bodies a certain way, and while there is no “ideal weight” that we can apply to people across the board, God did not design our bodies to work or look best while carrying around excess weight.
Doctors and other researchers can help you determine what your ideal weight is. Personally, I’ve used this website in the past to determine my goal weight (which is, funnily enough, what I weighed in high school). But as I approach that weight, I am beginning to see the limitations of merely having a “weight goal”. Your weight doesn’t tell you how strong you are or the state of your gut flora. I am moving onto fitness goals and food goals, for the longer term.
There is an attitude among some Christians that physical health and fitness is simply a hobby horse. It is not important to everyone, rather it is a special interest for those who choose it. They might even say that the state of their bodies bears no link to their spiritual lives.
That used to be my opinion too. I used to think that I was just not a “sporty person”. Growing up I did great academically, but I was hopelessly uncoordinated and unfit. So I stuck with what I was good at and left the fitness stuff to people who were into it.
It took years of my patient husband advising me to start exercising (particularly when I complained of tiredness or lack of energy) before I finally took it on board. He didn’t back down on this, even when I got rather angry about it and asked him to just let me be. (In hindsight, I would have saved a lot of grief and trouble if I had just submitted to him on this! But it was a huge blind spot for me, and I needed God to open my eyes.) He never said I should lose weight or that I was getting fat, and I never felt his attraction for me lessen. I never had a doubt that his primary concern was my health and my ongoing wellbeing.
Friends, if you are where I was – if you think health and fitness is not for you and that God doesn’t care what you do with your body, please allow me to respectfully challenge you on that. Not everyone will be at a place in their lives where they can suddenly throw themselves into working out every day. I’m not suggesting you should. But I ask that you consider God’s words in the Bible on this, and whether you are prepared to submit to Him, even in the (really, really) hard areas.
What are our bodies for?
Big picture – they are tools/vessels with which we bring God glory.
There are many ways to use our bodies to this end:
- Taking the gospel and sharing it with others. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” Romans 10:14-15
- Serving our families. “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” Proverbs 31:17, and I recommend all of Proverbs 31:10-31 for this topic!
- Having lots of sex within marriage. “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:2-3, see also the whole book Song of Songs.
To achieve these things, it is important that we prioritise keeping our bodies in good shape.
What is wrong with neglecting our bodies? Isn’t God just concerned with our souls?
The state of our souls is of primary importance. But Paul warned Timothy against the dangers of asceticism, while reaffirming the primary importance of a godly character.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
2. Our Bodies Matter to our Husbands
As I mentioned above, having sex in marriage is one of the main ways we glorify God with our bodies.
As women, we were created specifically to be a suitable match for men, and visually appealing to them. When I read Genesis 2 – the “zoomed in” account of the creation of humans – I am always struck by this line: “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.“
It strikes me because it is almost the opposite of the way things are in our present culture. Single women flaunt their bodies for all and sundry in public, while wives often hide their bodies from their husbands in shame.
It should not be this way! Marriage is the only biblical context where nudity is not shameful. Wives, we should embrace this principle with confidence!
I think a big part of having confidence here is knowing that our husbands like what they see. We should be seeking out our husband’s preferences in our bodies, and trying to conform to that as much as possible.
Your husband might not say that he wants you to lose weight or change something, but it is our responsibility as wives to ask for ourselves.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that wives and husbands do not have authority over their own bodies – a wife has authority over her husband’s body, and a husband has authority over his wife’s body. Part of honouring that authority is keeping our bodies the way our husbands like them.
The whole book of Song of Songs gives a good description of a husband’s physical attraction to his wife. Here are just some examples:
- “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women.” 2:2
- “My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.” 2:14
- “How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
all of them shields of warriors.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle
that browse among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
and to the hill of incense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.” 4:1-7
3. Eating More than our Fair Share is Wrong
Now, I know that not everyone who is overweight struggles with overeating. And some people with speedy metabolisms may be able to eat excessively or poorly without gaining a single kilo. (This was me in uni days! I used to binge on sugar all the time, but didn’t gain any weight until after I got married).
But I honestly think overeating is the main reason for people being overweight, and it has been a huge struggle for me. Just recently I have been strongly convicted about eating too much (or spending too much on food) when there are people in the world who are starving.
In the Bible, James condemns rich oppressors in saying:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
I’m sure none of us think of ourselves as oppressors – we haven’t failed to pay wages or murdered anyone.
But I believe there would be enough food for everyone in the world if we in the West were not over-consumers. And if we buy products that were made in unjust conditions, then yes, we have failed to pay people their wages! And if we eat to the point of getting fat, while others in the world are dying of starvation, then yes, we are murderers!
I’m not sure exactly what to do practically on this point. As I said, I’ve been convicted of this fairly recently.
But I’m thinking a good place to start is only eating (and serving to my family) what we require to live.
And I’m wondering about reducing the grocery bill and giving the excess to a charity that feeds people in poverty.
As I’ve said, this is still an area I’m growing and learning in.
I’d love to get a discussion going here.
Are you currently on a journey to be more healthy? What are you finding a challenge? What is easy?