This year I volunteered to speak at one of our church’s women’s fellowship dinners. Let me rephrase that. God prompted me to volunteer to speak at one of our women’s fellowship dinners. Believe me, I would not have come up with the idea on my own to volunteer to speak to 100 women! Our women’s counsel selects a theme verse for each year and our event topics are built around that theme. This year it was Romans 15:13:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The fellowship I was given to speak at was the Christmas dinner. I was little stumped. How do I talk about food and body image and hope instead of Christmas – the time of year that symbolizes the greatest sign of hope for Christians, with the birth of Christ? But as I pondered this, God helped me see that when it comes to our relationship with food and body, this is one area where we as Christians appear to be completely hopeless instead of hopeful.
When we pursue a certain body look, a culturally idolized thin ideal or a sculpted body, we are putting our hope for happiness or a better life in these things. There is also an underlying fear that if we don’t reach these standards that we are less than, will be rejected, or we won’t be as fulfilled. But who is setting the standard?
We can probably point a finger in a lot of different directions, but we can’t point a finger at God. He has asked us to put our hope in Him alone, and not in a cultural ideal.
I think it gets confusing when endless Christian authors and pastors actually apply the world’s diet culture filter to their messages. There is often a blatant or subtle message that thin is somehow better and something worthy of effort, and of course my least favorite phrasing, a demonstration of “self-control.”* But this is nowhere in the Bible. There is no scripture telling us what size our bodies should be. A recommendation to spend time on how our bodies look isn’t in the Bible either.
So why are we putting our hope in making ourselves smaller by searching for the next thing that will finally get us the body that we long for?
When we compliment weight loss or other body changes, we are sending the message to that person, ourselves, and everyone else that weight loss is important, and what we praise, and value is appearance and thinness.
If thinness is not what God values, then chasing after it is not going to lead to lasting joy or peace; pursuing it is going to be empty and hopeless. We need to allow the God of hope to fill us with joy and peace as we trust in Him (His ways and what matters to Him) so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
*While self-control IS in the Bible (check out Galations 5), there's no way to determine a person's self-control based on body size.
Faith-Based Nutrition Counseling
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Megan is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Megan specializes in non-diet, heath at every size nutrition therapy for women and nutrition therapy for the treatment of eating disorders. She believes that difficult relationships with food and body image are barriers to women living life fully the way that Christ wants for us and she loves helping women find freedom in eating and acceptance of their bodies so that they can turn more attention towards living.