Let me begin by saying that, like some of you, I have struggled with my weight for just about my whole life. I was of a normal weight up until age 3, when I had my tonsils removed. Prior to that, my tonsils had been in a constant state of inflammation to one extent or another, often making it difficult for me to even eat. When they came out and I was finally able to eat, I started to put on weight and soon become a chubby kid, in spite of the fact that I was very active. As an older child, I spent most of my free time riding my bike up and down the steep, hilly streets of my town…yet I was still overweight.
Looking back, I don’t believe I ate anymore than the next person my age. One problem I do remember is that the food we had in our house was not the highest quality, though I would consider it to be pretty much the typical diet for a low income family at the time. Mostly cheap, processed food including sweetened boxed cereals, fake “cheese”, and lots of Kool-Aid, and very little fresh fruits and vegetables. The junk was nice to the taste buds and the budget but not so good for the body. Still, I was the only overweight person in the house, so I can’t say that the type of food I was eating was the only cause of my problem.
From time to time I would hear some comment about my weight, and the paranoia and doubting of my worth began. Remember, this was the 1970’s when overweight people were not as common as they are today and obese people were rarely heard of. If you were carrying any kind of excess fat in the 70’s, you stuck out. By todays standards, I would not have been considered fat at all…just a little chubby at most. But that was then, this is now.
My first real diet happened when I was in 10th grade. By then I had not only heard the comments of relatives and other kids but had been exposed to a lot of TV and magazines. The people on TV back then were all thin and squeezed into those tight designer jeans that made them look even smaller. I found it very distressing not to look like my friends and the people on TV so I decided to do something about it. I starved myself over the summer break, eating only one meal a day, and lost a bunch of weight. I felt I looked better, but still not as good as those people on TV or even the skinny relatives that I had.
Lets just say that this trend of discontent and starving continued right through to my early 30’s. I tried it all, including diuretics, diet pills, excess exercise and fasting. Thankfully, I was unable to make myself throw up ( I tried) or I would have probably become a full blown anorexic/bulimic. I finally realized that I couldn’t keep doing this to myself and stopped the self harming behavior, though I still remained unhappy with my weight and appearance.
Since then I’ve continued to be unhappy with my weight but seemingly unable to do anything about it. More sensible diets involving portion control never worked very well and the results never lasted. This inability to lose weight became even worse thanks to some of the medication I had to start taking for health problems and the Autoimmune hypothyroid condition I developed. The weight just didn’t seem to want to budge and I suffered from self-esteem issues because of it, often being tempted to resort back to my self-harming diet behavior. Thankfully, I refused to give in to it. Still, I wanted to lose weight and felt ashamed and hopeless because I hadn’t been able to.
Finally a breakthrough
Just recently I have had some spiritual breakthroughs. One of them concerns my weight, diet, and self-worth. I’ve been suffering from severe acid reflux and stomach problems for the last two years even though I don’t eat or drink any of the foods that are most likely to cause these problems. I’ve been seeing a gastroenterologist and I’ve tried several medications, all of which make me feel bad with side effects, and I still can’t get rid of the stomach symptoms completely. Lets just say I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. So, recently I really sat back and looked at my life…including my diet. I asked myself, “Do I really eat that much? Do I eat healthy food? Do I get enough exercise? Am I making myself sick? What can I do to help my body feel better? What kind of diet would God have me eat?”.
The Bible doesn’t really give much specific dietary suggestions when you look outside of the food laws of the Old Testament, but there are a few.
While in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were told to eat certain foods:
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. Genesis 1:29
And there is a verse telling us not to eat to much honey:
If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. Proverbs 25:16
And there are some verses where God describes the promised land and mentions what kind of food they will find there. Obviously, this is meant to be a positive incentive for the people. You will note that it is all healthy foods that are mentioned.
A land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, Deuteronomy 8:8
So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey— Exodus 3:8
We are also told not to be gluttons or drunkards:
Proverbs 23:20–21 (ESV)Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
But, for the most part, the Bible doesn’t spell things out in minute detail when it comes to a healthy diet. However, I think we can be safe in assuming that natural, God-made food is a lot better for the God-made human body than man made junk food.
After thinking about my experiences verses God’s way of living, I had to admit that man made food and diets do not hold the way to a healthy body. Harming myself with junk food and starvation diets, and feeling bad about myself because I don’t fit into the world’s expectations, was not the answer, and I would no longer go down those paths. Instead, I decided to finally start taking care of myself. That’s right, no more dieting, no more excess exercise, no more beating myself up mentally, no more allowing society to define my worth. From now on, I look to God and only God for my worth. And since I know that He loves me no matter what I look like, there is no more pressure to look a certain way. However, I would like to be healthier and feel better, so I wondered how I could do this in a way that would honor God.
I recently started reading another book about healthy eating. This particular author said a few things that brought to mind some things I had learned in other materials but hadn’t acted on at the time. Why hadn’t I acted on them? Because these things are not easy for those of us who were brought up on junk food and its not generally supported by a junk eating society.
What I am talking about? Eating real food rather than eating all the processed food we tend to eat in the western world, and eating them in balance.
Today we tend to think that processed “foods” are actually nutritious foods and that totally eliminating whole groups of food (no carbs or no fat, etc) when following some kind of fad diet is good for you. I realized that even I, who have made an effort to eat on the healthy side over the last several years, was eating way too much fake food. This led me to thinking about how people ate in Biblical times. They, like the few healthy groups of people out there today, lived mostly on grains, beans, fruit, vegetables and water with occasional dairy, fish and meat. I asked myself if that sounded like my diet and I had to tell myself, “No!”.
Though I am mostly vegetarian, my other food choices were far from healthy. For one thing, too much sugar. For another, too much processed “food” and not enough fresh food. Don’t get me wrong, this was not new to me. I’ve known that I should be eating fresh foods and less processed junk for awhile but have had a hard time doing anything about it. First, eating fresh food takes some preparation and, since I haven’t been feeling well, I felt that I didn’t have the energy to deal with it. Second, I didn’t have the right mind set. I felt that I would be suffering if I had to give up the stuff I enjoyed eating and I resented that.
Time to change
But things are different now. Though I’m still not feeling well, I now know that things are not going to improve if I don’t make an effort to change what isn’t working. It just makes sense that eating foods that God made for us to eat would have to be healthier than eating garbage that man makes in order to make money from the consumer. It finally hit me how hard the powers-that-be push this unhealthy junk on us and call it food. Why? Because there is a lot more money to be made selling packaged food than there is in selling real food. Same goes with all these diet fads. They push a fad for a while, selling books and products that are related to it, and then, when that has been sold to the people long enough and the sales have dropped off, along comes another claim to the ultimate diet. More books and products fly off the shelf. Yet we as a society keep getting fatter.
Who has our best interests in mind?
This should make us wonder, “Who has our best interest in mind?”. Well, it certainly isn’t man, that’s for sure. God made food that is good for you and good tasting. Unfortunately, our taste-buds have been ruined by this fake food with all its fat, salt and sugar, and the idea of giving it up for natural foods can seem a bit depressing. At least it used to feel like that to me. However, I feel differently now. I now know that man’s way has not worked for me. The poor health that results from eating this stuff is just not worth it to me any more. (Besides, your taste buds recover and come to appreciate the taste of real foods after you have been off the junk for awhile!).
Caring for God’s temple
But that wasn’t all that happened to cause me to change my eating habits. I also finally understood that I should be treating my body well, not just for health reasons, but because my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. God and Jesus Christ live in my body and I am to glorify it.
. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV), he asks, “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.
Back in the time of Christ, the people had a beautiful temple where the presence of God resided in the Holy of Holies part of the temple. If anyone desecrated that temple in any way, they were likely killed. The fact that this building was a residence of God was taken very seriously. I certainly couldn’t imagine going into that building myself and defiling it in some way, and yet I have treated my body, the current temple of God, in some horrible, disrespectful ways. I’ve harmed it with fad dieting, excess exercise, fake food and have even despised it. I realized that this had to end.
My body is to be respected and taken care of. It has been fearfully and wonderfully made by God Himself and doesn’t even belong to me, it belongs to God! It is not mine to despise or abuse, but it is my responsibility to care for as well as I can.
That said, I have switched to a more natural diet. I’ve done some research and found some good, tasty recipes for healthy meals, and I’ve stocked my cupboards and refrigerator with real, natural food. Am I saying I will never eat any junk food again? No. But I am saying that the majority of my food intake will be of a healthy sort from now on. Am I saying this will make me totally healthy and of a smaller size? No. I hope both of those things will happen, but I have no idea what the results will actually be. My health issues may remain, my size may not decrease. However, I will know that I am caring for my body and respecting the temple of the Holy Spirit to the best of my ability. I will not have to be ashamed of who and what I am because I will know that I’m doing the best that I can with God’s help. I will be free of one more of the world’s deadly traps, having exchanged it for a more God ordered way of eating and treating my(His) body/His temple. That can’t be anything but good.