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Obesity and the Body of Christ
Where did we get the idea that we can wilfully jeopardize our physical health without affecting our spiritual health?

Is it my imagination or are we all growing? And I don’t necessarily mean in the Lord; I mean girth wise. As much as I enjoy stirring the pot occasionally, I have recently discovered a huge taboo subject in Christian circles—obesity.

The rapid increase of obesity in our North American culture and churches is epidemic in proportion — but try and bring it up at church and it’s fascinating to hear the responses. The worst answer I’ve heard is, “Well, the reason we all overeat is because we can’t drink.” Oh, OK then—that justifies being overweight?

Last year, in order to correct some health issues, I started eating an extremely healthy diet. Slowly, I started looking healthier and dropped weight I didn’t need. People started to ask me how I lost the weight. As soon as they heard it was just hard work and discipline, they’d walk away saying, “Oh, I could NEVER give up my chocolate or my morning donut!” My question is, at what price are they enjoying that donut?

Now, please hear my heart. I’m not trying to convert these people to my style of eating, but I am trying to challenge their contentment with their present lifestyle. What kind of a witness is this to their children or their community? They are worrying about diabetes and heart disease, but changing their diet isn’t an option they want to consider. Instead of being content with daily sustenance, we overeat and medicate ourselves with caffeine and sugar. I once worked as a medical office assistant and noticed that the majority of patients would rather take medication than change their lifestyle.

Many of us are happy to do our part to save the planet. We recycle and carry our own bags to the grocery store, but we don’t care for our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit. People will pay top dollar to have their pet food customized, but they won’t take time to exercise. What about loving our neighbour as ourselves? Do we love ourselves enough to care for our health? Too often we resign ourselves to carrying around 20, 30 or 40 extra pounds, when the health industry preaches the value of losing even ten percent of our body fat. Where did we get the idea that we can wilfully jeopardize our physical health without affecting our spiritual health? How did we get lazy?

Consider the story of Daniel, who, along with his three friends, asked not to be given the royal food to eat. “Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see” (Daniel 1:12-13, NIV). After ten days, “… they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (Daniel 1:15, NIV). In the story of the feeding of the multitude we read, “They all ate and were satisfied …” (Matthew 14:20). What if we started eating more vegetables and fruit? What if we scaled down our feasts and ate less or only until we were satisfied?

Eating to fuel my body was radically different from eating to satisfy the urges that plagued me. It required discipline. Since I needed to eat several times a day I had to discover different ways to nourish myself and to balance out my life. Meeting friends for lunch and going to church potlucks became challenging. I quickly discovered that if I didn’t eat the way everyone else was eating, people assumed there was something wrong with me, or that I’d jumped on a “New Age bandwagon.” But now, 60 pounds later, my health has improved dramatically, my doctor is thrilled with me, and I am discovering a whole new person.

What have I learned from these past ten months of eating like Daniel? For weeks and months I felt lost without my best friends — chocolate, chips, bread and cheese. They were the friends I had always depended on; they were there when I needed them, never judging and always happy to comfort. At first I panicked. But then I began eating only when I was hungry. I became disciplined enough to know the difference between my body’s need for food and my emotional need for comfort.

Most important, I’ve learned that I don’t always need to be the entertainer or comedian. My message is important enough without having to make people laugh. I’ve learned there is a serious, quiet side to me that I was afraid to let out. I had thought people would like me only if I was funny. I’ve become a better communicator and I’ve learned to express frustration, sadness or anger without ramming a bag of chips in my mouth and mumbling, “I’m doing fine. Thanks for asking. I’m good!”

I didn’t have the discipline in myself. All my attempts at changing had never worked in the past. Somehow, the Holy Spirit knew it was the right time. He has guarded my eyes and lips and walked with me every step of the way. It’s a journey I’m still on. I encourage you to begin taking your own small steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Together let’s “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8, NIV).

Originally published in testimony, May 2008




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