Before we consider the physical aspect of dieting, which we often consider to be the primary one, as Christians, we need to think through the spiritual component of dieting. Because, the spiritual side of dieting is far and away the most important…
That might sound a bit strange being that dieting deals mainly with the physical body, but if we step back and think through what the Bible says holistically, we will remember that God created us as embodied souls. That means that to be human is not merely to have a body, or to have a soul. Rather, to be human is to be an embodied soul. That which affects the body affects the soul, and vice versa.
Dieting has to do with the body, and the body belongs to God. Therefore, dieting is inherently and essentially spiritual in nature.
So, the way in which we diet matters a great deal—How we think about dieting, how we plan for it, go about it, and feel while we’re doing it—it all affects not only the body, but also the soul.
So let’s think through some of the spiritual implications for dieting…
1 - My body belongs primarily to God, not to Me.
It is good for us to remember this phrase and repeat to ourselves when we’re thinking about dieting: “God is my Creator, and my body belongs to Him.”
Genesis 1:27 - “So God created man in His Own image…”
1 Corinthians 6:20 - “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Isn’t that such a peculiar thought? That our bodies are not our own. Our bodies are our most intimate possession. We teach our children and others the importance of bodily autonomy. We have laws guarding the value of the body. We value our personal space.
To do violence against another’s body is to violate them not only physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. Deep trauma can result in us from physical harm done by another.
And yet, the Bible is clear. Our bodies don’t belong to us. We are not self-existent. We exist because God created us (Gen. 1-2), and we continue to exist because He is granting us life (Col. 1), and the bodies we inhabit.
Everything about me belongs to Him. Therefore, when I think about using my body, my first thought ought not be, “What do I want?” but, “What does God want from me with my body?”
2 - The Way I think is Important.
Dieting is connected to all kinds of thinking in our minds. Usually, we enter into a diet because we are displeased with the way we look and/or feel in our bodies. Which means, our primary motivation for dieting is probably rooted in our thinking about ourselves.
But this is self-centered thinking.
And this is where the Bible helps me, reminding me that in Christ, I have a new mind; a renewed mind.
I no longer think like the world. I no longer think according to sin and self. Rather, the good news of Jesus crucified and raised frees me from thinking along those lines of death.
Listen to how Paul describes our minds and bodies when we are separated from Jesus…
Ephesians 2:1-3 - “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind…”
Did you catch what Paul is saying? Apart from Jesus, my mind and heart are broken. They don't work right. I am so broken that I am a blind slave to whatever my broken heart and mind desire.
But, when I am in Christ by faith (Rm. 10:13), my mind and my heart are made new; they are renewed in how they operate. When I am in Christ, the Apostle explains, I have a renewed sense of God, of Christ, of the world, and even of my own body (Rm. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:20).
Thus, the gospel frees me not only from the death of sin, but also from the dead thinking of the world —the gospel also frees me into the right thinking of godliness.
And this applies to how I go about dieting…
Christians ought to diet —for weight-loss and for overall health. But Christians ought not diet primarily for the purpose of self. Rather, Christians ought to diet for the purpose of godliness; dieting in order to be healthy is good and holy.
Thinking along these lines will go along way in our relationship with food.
3 - The Fall broke My Relationship with Food.
As I said earlier, we tend to enter into a diet because we are displeased with how we look and feel, or because we need to get our overall health into order. And these things usually occur because we have eaten poorly. We might overeat, under eat, or eat the wrong kids of things.
And Christian, we need to understand and remember that our relationship with food is broken because of the Fall. When sin entered the world (Gen. 3), it ruined everything, breaking everything. And this includes even how we think about and use food.
God does intend for us to abuse food by eating too much or too little. He gave it as a resource for life and health, a gift of pleasure, and a reminder of His goodness.
So, when we abuse it, we are mistreating it —and that is sin.
4 - My Emotions are Deceptive and Often Misleading.
We need to admit that when it comes to food, we experience all the feels! Food drives our emotions crazy! Sometimes, food makes us feel happy; sometimes it makes us feel sad; other times it makes us feel stressed and angry. We turn to food for emotional support or emotional numbing, and we turn to food for pick-me-ups. Our emotional relationship with food can be downright complicated! But, remember what the Scriptures teach us about our emotions…
Jeremiah 17:9 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
James 4:1-2 - “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”
Man O man our emotions are complicated and misleading at times! They can mislead us, complicate simple things, and lead us into all kinds of unnecessary fights and quarrels with ourselves and others. How many times have you argued with yourself about food only to end up losing the argument and finding yourself feeling down and depressed?
How many times have you been frustrated about food in one way or another, and that frustration gets taken on others around you?
How many times have you stared at that donut, told yourself you don’t need it, explained to yourself why you shouldn’t eat it, and then you eat it and feel terrible about yourself!?
Food can make us feel happy, sad, angry, depressed, and more. And most of the time, the way food makes us feel isn’t right. So, we need to be careful. Because our emotions are tied closely to our spiritual health and maturity.
The spiritually wise person speaks to his/her emotions and offers wisdom. The spiritually immature person is at the mercy of their emotions.
5 - What I Eat and What I Feel are Often Connected.
This one is closely tied to number 3. Food and our emotions are so connected! But, we need to zoom in and think about how food affects our self-image and body-image.
When we overeat (which is the cause of most weight gain), our bodies have to respond to that extra food. So, the body uses what it can and stores what it can’t. And, voila, weight gain!
And when we gain weight, no matter how much we might play it down, we feel certain ways about it…often negatively!
Gaining weight affects us...
Emotionally…in that gaining weight affects my self-image. We all have an ideal body type that we desire to achieve in our minds. And while this ideal is often skewed and unrealistic, not meeting that ideal makes us feel poorly and often creates a lot of doubt and negative bodily feelings. And this usually leads to either avoiding food or further overeating.
Physically - What I eat affects how I feel in my body. When I eat poorly, lots of processed sugars, etc, my body will feel poor. Those types of food are unnatural and the body doesn’t do well with them. I often feel sluggish, tired, have brain-fog, headaches, and more when I eat these types of food. And when we eat these foods regularly, not only do we gain weight, but we make our bodies sick. Eating poorly is connected to a long-list of health related issues like high blood pressure, cardiac diseases, diabetes, and more.
So, whether we’re talking about emotionally or physically, food has a ton to do with how we feel. And this is how God designed it! God gave us food for nutrition and for pleasure. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden, He filled the Garden with food that was delicious and a delight to the eyes.
So, when I eat poorly and misuse food, not only am I making my body feel poorly, I am disobeying God’s creative intent for food.
6 - Food Can Often be an Idol in My Life.
Anything that takes the place of God in our lives becomes an idol. And, while we might quickly dismiss the idea that we worship food, it might do us some good to pause and give this some thought.
It will do us well to ask, “What role does food play in my life?”
-Food has more than likely become an idol when we…
Use it to cure boredom;
Use it to calm our anger;
Turn to it when we feel down;
Eat it to cheer ourselves up;
Hide what we are eating from others;
Feel self-conscious in the grocery store, wondering who's looking in our carts;
Food so easily becomes an idol for all sorts of reasons. In fact, idolatry over food is at the heart of the very first sin. Eve idolized the fruit because of what she thought it could give her: God-like knowledge. And so, for the sake of power and self-fulfillment, she ate the food and gave-up her holiness only to find out it was all a lie.
In fact, her idolatry had deathly consequences; not only for her, but for all her children throughout history.
And we can see parallels in our own lives. We exchange the right worship of God in our bodies for idolatrous worship of food all the time (see the list above). Like Eve, when we mishandle food, not only do we fall under its sinful effects, we can often pass along the consequences to our children and grandchildren in the form of bad food practices, broken genes, and diseases like heart-disease, diabetes, etc.
Food so easily becomes a destructive idol in our lives interrupting our right worship of God, and interrupting our relationships with others.
Food can also become a tool of spiritual warfare.
7 - Our Bodies are a Stewardship.
Here's the main idea for this discussion:
What we do with our bodies matter.
Eating is part of our worship.
1 Corinthians 10:31 - “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Our eating matters primarily because God created our bodies, entrusts them to us to manage and utilize—That means we should steward our bodies according to His Word and will.
A second reason is that what we do with our bodies affects us here and now. There have been various teachings throughout history that devalue the physical body, emphasizing the “inner self” over and against the physical body. Transgenderism, for example, is the latest manifestation of this heretical teaching.
Third, our bodies have a future (Phil. 3:21-22). So, we ought to steward our earthly bodies in light of our coming heavenly bodies.
What we do physically with our bodies has profound effect on our experience in the world, and in our bodies themselves.
Our bodies are part of God’s creation, and what we do in them and with them matters greatly. Gaining weight is reality in the western world today.
The Harvard Medical School estimates that as many as ⅓ of Americans are in the obese category.
That’s a big deal and that’s a problem. It means we aren’t stewarding our bodies well.
So, as we think about dieting, we must begin with the spiritual side first. The spiritual side is the most fundamental side to anything in our lives.
Here are some practical steps I regularly take...
I remind myself of God's Word.
I pray often that the Holy Spirit would help me.
I plan ahead for food.
I pray before meals.
I pray when I get hungry.
I pray when I'm tempted to eat junk food, or to eat too much food.
I try to discipline my mind to see food as part of my worship.