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Lose Weight ... for Jesus

Bathing suit season is almost over. Women everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief.  They are letting their stomaches out again while stuffing their latest 2 piece in a drawer until next year.  The crock pots, slow cookers, and stews are about to make their annual appearance next to the pumpkin spice latte.  

 There is a feeling of change in the air: New year of school, new season, new you.  It is very "in" right now to be exploring yourself and your identity (I'm all for it). Part of that is to try out new ways of healthy living. What amazes me as I reflect on what I've heard this summer during my travels is how the church is responding.  More and more churches are adding "Biggest Loser" type programs complete with weigh-ins and dieting plans. I'm all for the church encouraging healthy habits, but is this it? 

I've also recently talked to a handful of my friends who have joined extreme boot camp programs to be educated about body and fitness. In addition to exercise regimens there are nutrition classes and field trips. They hold you accountable to what you eat oftentimes using exercise as a punishment when you've eaten too much. 

Most recently one of these programs in my hometown split. From what I can gather from various friends, the founders had a disagreement and one took off with half of the people from this particular "community" gym.  Sound familiar?

So now we are entering treacherous territory where gyms are looking like churches, albeit unhealthy ones, and churches are looking like gyms. I know people who are more loyal to their workout than to their church and others who would much rather be at the church potluck than ever put on a tennis shoe.  Where is the model of health in this mess?

Jesus' model was a healthy one. He walked pretty much everywhere with his disciples. He celebrated and feasted once in a while-- even giving out doggy bags on occasion. He was present to his community, but also present to his body. 

As a recovering perfectionist food is a topic that confronts me daily.  I am often met with two options -- bad or good, and it has taken years to overcome that mentality.  Too often, food is used as a reward in our culture and is also a comfort when it shouldn't be. We have turned to our friends Ben and Jerry more than our communities because a lot of us don't even know what that term means anymore.

When we are told to be in the world and not of the world, but that doesn't mean to simply put a Christian stamp on something and make another exclusive club that is supposedly free from sin.  This can be seen with everything from weight loss programs to music. We need to be better at asking questions of our communities and ourselves. Why are we doing this? What am I eating? Why am I more faithful to running than church? Does my weight measure my worth?

There are plenty more questions to ask and not enough time to shy away from asking them anymore.  Yes, exercise regimens are good at times, but someone yelling at you to do more laps or push-ups -- is that healthy? Too often we replace one abuse with another.

We need to reintroduce grace, wholeness, and exploration into our mindsets of food and body. Only then can we live radical lives that look like they are not of this world. As the transition of seasons is upon us, I want to explore these ideas further. I invite your questions about food, body, the church, and Jesus too as we dive into a conversation filled with grace, wholeness, and exploration. 

Comments

Kristin,

In my friend groups, food is often a topic of discussion in terms of "what are we going to eat" or "is this healthy" or "who is bringing the dessert?" and people literally feel that they NEED something sweet or the evening won't be complete. I've been thinking a lot about that. I'm really guilty of it too, but now as I'm getting older, I'm wondering if that's part of the issue as to why I had to give away my shorts this year! Dessert three times a week could be contributing! Is that okay? I'm not sure... It's like we can have discipline about so many things but not always about what we put into our bodies. Maybe we think if we can control that, then we'll have control over our lives...

Also, when I was training for my half marathon, it became like a religion to me. I thought it taught me discipline and that in our culture where everything is "If it feels good, do it," running was in strange opposition to that. Running hurt. It was hard It felt good to have a challenge. But then I realized that my life was becoming about when I was going to run, what I had to eat to be able to run later, and how my lack of sleep was affecting my run. And then I thought, am I running away from my problems? Is running becoming a distraction from God? There's got to be a balance. I found friendship and community with other runners during that time. I found that I could communicate with God. I felt better about my physical shape. I fit into my clothes REALLY well. But then at what price? When is it too much? I think we need to have more discussions on how to healthily integrate fitness into our lives so that it doesn't take over but actually helps us live fuller lives. I think people just crave discipline and structure when things like the economy and fires and natural disasters are so unsettling. Structure makes us feel like we have some semblance of control. If we can't control the things around us, at least we can control our own bodies...or so we believe if we get the latest and greatest equipment, gym membership, or boot camp...Maybe we need to stop looking to programs and start looking to Jesus to help us find that comfort we're craving...just a few thoughts. Love your blog, as usual!

Melissa

Melissa - wow! Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. There is so much here to respond to. Let me ponder this and I will get back to you - possibly in another blog! Thanks friend.

Hi Kristin. Thanks again for another well written post. I've been noticing the amount of sugar that is put in our every day foods. I'm not talking about desert. I'm talking about canned vegetables and tomato sause. Why on Earth do we need sugar in a can of corn and a can of tomato sauce? I think there is definitely an issue of over eatting sweets, but I also think there is an issue with the way our food is packaged up for us to buy. Even when you think you're eating healthy, you're taking in a lot of sugar and probably a lot of sodium too.

My husband and I decided to make everything we possibly can, ourselves. Like tomato sauce. It's easy to make, little time and of course we don't add sugar. I even make fruit pies without any sugar added that honestly taste just as good and Peanut Butter cookies with half the sugar.

I think we need to take more responsibilty when it comes to what we eat. As Americans we are used to having our food prepared for us. That is a luxury that many other parts of the world do not share. Before I got married, I ate out a lot or ate frozen dinners, without paying much attention to the sugar content. Now I cook at home. I don't only enjoy cooking at home for the nutritional value, I also enjoy it for the community aspect. There is something about preparing food together that is binding.

I agree with your last paragraph. I think more grace, a healthier understanding of wholeness and a lot more Jesus are needed in every area of life, even in our food.

By the way...Stater Bro's has a No Sugar Added ice cream that contains only 5grams of sugar! It's delightful.

Thank you Carrie for a great comment! You bring up so many points I hope to touch on during this "food" series. My husband and I cook a lot of our own food too and we just planted a garden, so we're trying to turn our yard into "edible landscape" as much as possible... it's amazing how much we don't question of what goes into our food.

A great documentary is King Corn if you haven't seen it.. I highly recommend it. Hopefully this discussion will spur on more thoughtful consumption. Thanks again!

Great thoughts. As someone who has been through counseling, every weight loss center known to man, probably belonged to every gym and tried every new piece of faddish work-out equipment, I can tell you that true peace and rest can only be found in Christ.

Do you know that I am 36 and the first time that I was ever able to say with a full, gracious, and free heart, "Thank you, God" for a basket of food I was buying at the grocery store was two weeks ago?

I am not resigned to being overweight - what I have realized is that the spiritual precedes the physical. All the chaos, worry, and anxiety over food only served to steal my joy and peace. Where I am weak, He is strong. He has told me in His Word to not worry about what I will eat or drink or about what I wear (because the pagans run after these things) - but to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be added to me.

Oh how I hunger and thirst after the living God. He is my everything. He has spoken to my soul. He has held my face and called me beautiful. His power is made PERFECT in my weakness and what incredible praise and glory is brought to God when I exhale and am at rest.

For the first time ever, food is not my enemy - nor is it my friend or lover. It is food. Sometimes I make wise choices and sometimes unwise choices. Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial and day by day - my body - the one God designed and packed with unbelievable wisdom - is teaching me what is beneficial and what is merely permissible and for the first time, I want to say yes to those things that are beneficial and no to those things that are just permissible - not because I feel I must to earn love and acceptance through a perfect body but because I am fully loved and accepted and am able to love and accept myself...and treat myself well.

God so loves us....and I do think He's grieved to watch His people constantly worrying about what they'll eat, drink, or wear....but how great it is that He watches and waits...with open arms...for the time when we take Him at His Word...oh what an amazing God we serve.

Thank you so much for sharing Bethany! What an amazing picture of grace and forgiveness. We oftentimes need that towards ourselves more than anything. I agree with you 100% and I'm so happy about your experience at the store 2 weeks ago. Food is not the enemy but our culture turns it into a temptress or guilty pleasure that we should feel shame about. It ends up being something we feel guilty about instead of enjoying the taste and creation before us. Praise God for your wise body! Thanks for the amazing comment.

well, this is the best reason to lose weight: for God.

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About
A recovering perfectionist that asks questions about life, art, the Spirit and this imperfect culture we live in, I help women tap into their true self in Jesus through creative means and spiritual direction.


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