The world says being thin and beautiful is most important. What does the Bible say about putting our appearance first? Learn about the idol of weight loss!
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.Jonah 2:8 (NIV)
Copyright © 1984 by International Bible Society
This verse describes literal decades of my life. At the age of 14, I was whisked away by dreams of becoming what the 90’s said was the pinnacle of value- I wanted to be a (super) model. And I wasn’t alone. From Twiggy to Cindy Crawford, generations aspired to have the look of what the world deemed as “ideal.”
Appearance has been touted as the be-all, end-all and we have all taken the bait, hook, line, and sinker.
And if how we look is #1, how much we weigh follows suit.
In the first-world, we are obsessed with thinness and food all at the same time. We diet to fit the societal ideal but deprivation leads to even more food focus. And the cycle continues.
We literally can’t win.
Those Who Cling
That was me. The years I spent with anorexia, bulimia, and overeating left me heavier and unhappier than ever.
Then, in 2009, I had the privilege of meeting with a personal trainer who gave me so many reasons to exercise. He taught me more than simply how to lift weights up and down. He taught me how weight lifting benefited me, what muscles I was working, and why all this effort even mattered.
The gym went from boring to a blessing. And, I decided to become a personal trainer.
As my career developed, numerous clients asked for help with their diets. I did my best to meet their needs, providing diet plans that detailed when, what, and how much they would eat. But…
The meal plans didn’t solve their problems.
Food plans, for the most part, don’t change our relationships with food. My clients didn’t need to be told how to lift their fork from plate to palate. What they needed was someone to show them how to eat better today than yesterday. And then do it again.
Professionally and personally I embarked on a journey of habit-based coaching. Which, in essence, means– make one small, sustainable change at a time.
And, it worked in my life and in the lives of my clients! Not only did we reach our goals but we got (and stayed) there healthier and happier than ever. It was sweet.
Problem, Not Solved
But my heart was still idolatrous. I had reached what I considered the pinnacle of body composition without the extreme measures I had taken in the past.I was lean, fit, and felt competent to teach because I looked the part.
Something was wrong though– I wasn’t well. 3 years of pregnancy hopes were left unfulfilled due to my leanness. My other systems were in stress as well, leaving doctors to wonder if I had Crohn’s disease and adrenal fatigue.
I knew what I needed to do but, could I?
In Isaiah 44 we read about the futility of idols. As if we are peering in from an outside window, we read about a man who created his own object of worship.
This craftsman planted a tree and nurtured it until the day he takes an ax to the roots and chops it down. He uses some of the wood to warm himself with a fire and bake bread.
And the rest of it he makes into a god,Isaiah 44:17 (NKJV)
His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
It is hard to miss the worthlessness of this idol, and yet, our lives also nurture and form ideas and objects we hope will save us.
My idol was (and still competes to be) having a culturally attractive appearance. Something God seems to care very little about.
The world, it focuses on the outward appearance while God cares about our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Even Christ himself was not adored in external attractiveness and yet, He possessed true magnetism.
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.Isaiah 53:2 (NLT)
When we make our lives about something so UNimportant to God, we miss out on a divine partnership.
Have you struggled to implement healthy changes in your life? Do you long to lay aside food and body image issues but you just can’t seem to do it?
If so, what you need is GRACE.
When we cling to worthless idols, we forfeit the mercy we need the most (Jonah 2:8) It is no wonder why we struggle! To find supernatural strength, we need to align our desires up with God’s will.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.James 4:3 (NKJV)
Just as when we pray God-centered prayers He hears us, so when we pursue God-centered goals He assists us!
And, that is what I did…
Doing Scary Things
I knew in my heart of hearts God prompted me to lay aside that which I clung to and surrender to His will by gaining weight.
When I did, something amazing happened. Although I like to boast that weight gain was “hard,” it was not nearly as emotionally difficult as I feared.
“Why?” you say. Because God’s grace showed up in a BIG way.
After adding 15 pounds, my body’s systems regulated and I became pregnant just two short months later.
Tell me, do you think it was worth it?
The thing I held on to with clenched hands was the very thing that made me miserable and robbed me of the blessings God had for me and my family.
And, let’s be real– it is scary and even terrifying to let go of those dreams that have kept us in waiting for so many years. We may even wonder who we are without them.
But, that which seems to be our identity has stolen it. In Christ, we have a high calling which far exceeds a six-pack. It is waiting for us but we have to search for it.
Choosing God Goals
Here’s where it gets really exciting! When our “why” lines up with the kingdom purpose we become unstoppable. If we lay aside our prideful ambition, God honors the sacrifice and blesses us for it.
When His priorities become our focus, this whole health and fitness thing gets a lot easier.
If our motivation is to eat in such a way that we can better serve our husband and children, eating an unplanned cookie doesn’t “ruin” those goals.
Perfectionistic, all-or-nothing eating fades and our decisions become more about being on a road rather than a tightwire.
When your purpose for going to the gym is to be mobile and strong to serve the Lord, getting out of bed isn’t just about burning 150 calories on the treadmill. It is far more motivating to see the big picture of living a fit life.
This reframe will invigorate your efforts!
Making the Switch
Now that you see why it means so much to align purposes with God’s will, it is time to dig below the surface and see what your God-goals are!
- Download your Overcoming Weight Loss Idols Worksheets below and print out two copies.
- Set aside 15 minutes to spend some time with God.
- Prepare by praying for God to show you where your heart is.
- Answer the questions to the best of your ability and set aside some time to revisit the worksheet in one week.
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Amazon #1 Best Selling Author, Homeschool Mom, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.
I love this entire article. I have always been obsessed with weight loss and fitness, buy today,you have taught me quite a lot. May the good Lord bless you and your family.
Thank you, Vanessa! I am glad you enjoyed the article and hope to see you around here 🙂 Please let me know if I can help in any way!
Great testimony! Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome! I appreciate the comment, Fernda 🙂
Thanks for sharing this. I need help…
I grew up an overweight child as I had large portions of food and had second helpings. It didn’t help I carried genetics for weight gain. I saw other kids eat bad food yet I ate healrhy and not thin like them
I was overweight all my childhood to teen years and was treated bad and teased. It left me traumatised. I felt worthless and ugly and even comments were made by family. I grew up feeling constantly ugly and disgusting. I had to wear adults clothing and felt awful children’s sizes never fit me. I was flabby and gross.
When I was 15 I had enough and snapped and started near starving myself. I lost about 15kgs in two months. I got down to 52kgs and had my back ribs poking out. The bullying of my weight ended but other bullying continued. One day I snapped again and ate junk and gained maybe 10kgs. Over the years I started eating bad again and got to my highest of about 95kgs. I ate maybe one or two large chocolate bars a week. These are massive portions for families. Not sure if they have them in America if this blog is American.
Last year I decided to lose weight and started in November 2017 I was 88kgs. I didn’t know how to lean on God for it so I went on my own as I felt no leading or encouragement or help. I never hear from God. I believe I was consuming very little calories. I lost 4kgs a month for about 3 months then it ended. Two 2kgs a month or currently less than 1. I’m now 60 but not happy. I want to be 54-55kgs with a 26inch waist. I want to have a model waist as they have that waist size (I’m currently 30-31inches) and have less body fat as I carry a lot. I’m classed as having an overweight hip to waist ratio. I want to be looking a certain way. I admit I want to be pretty and have attention. I want to have the looks I always wanted. I want to fit clothing better. I worry if I stop calorie counting I’ll gain weight again. I can’t lose like I used to…half a pound if that a week now..I feel God may be trying to talk to me about this.
It wasn’t so idolatorous at the beginning but the past few months I’ve only been thinking about my weight, weighing myself twice a day and looking up recipes, joining recipe groups, doing veganism, and even calorie counting for months. I don’t pray anymore and don’t trust God anymore. I feel angry and disappointed in God for several things..such as my sad life with abuse in it and pain. I have begged God continuously for months..even years for help in my life and situation and nothing has ever changed. Drs continue to not really listen, my mental health is still bad and my health isn’t good. I still have no way out of my situation. I even prayed for friends and never got them. It’s hardbeing isolated and lonely with no one to help. I thought I had to do it on my own and I obviously did as the weight thing I did on my own. I struggled disobeying God without His leading with my weight loss but had no other choice. I don’t want to be this weight, I want to be 54-55kgs.
I’ve made idols out of coloring books, coloring pencils, ancestry..genealogy and even buying things online. I always end up making “new idols”. I can’t control them and keep making them.
I was once a stronger Christian….I took every sin seriously and was a complete ocd over it it..Jesus was all to me. I was in constant turmoil of soul and confusion with my faith. I became a Christian in 2013 or 2014 and went through years of confusion. I noticed my faith and Christian lifestyle slowly went down to nothing. It started with stopping daily sermons and then devotionals to nothing. I have never been able to read the bible fully..it makes me feel sick and stressed and upset and I always feel a force inside preventing me. I have had panic attacks over Christian music and have been confused by messages and teachings. I’ve never being able to complete bible studies apart from one by wvbs which I completed nearly all of Exodus which is all I’ve been able to do since 2014. I also did postal studies of Genesis and John and Romans but couldn’t keep my heart on it anymore. I did it for accolade and so my grades failed. I didn’t put my heart in it (last year when my faith failed..about thr time of my diet starting).
I never understood how you could be so happy as a Christian. I was always unhappy and sad and lonely. I never felt complete. I wanted to “Christianise” myself as much as I could. I want to please God and do as He said. It wasn’t all legalism..my heart was truly in it too. I did what I thought was His voice was telling me to stop..like all hobbies and only do Christian things all day. I never knew His voice. I thought I knew it. I also was terrorised by thr devil and he put murderous thoughts in my mind and scary mental attacks and nightmares. Even sexual ones I believe,
Around October I lost my house and have been In motels and even floors and in caravans. The trauma was awful. I’m still in a motel. We can’t get a home. We have even had trouble with people calling police on us to stir and fights caused and just traumatic thing over thr months. Noises.sounds..screams.racing cars…the trauma has been awful. Even awful cold and soaring temperatures. Even now thinking of it I feel like it can’t be real.This has really dampened my faith and killed it for me. I’ve spent days on end crying to no avail. Nothing will change..I don’t even know how to begin or seek help. People I have sought help from..don’t help.
I end up always having a new health issue and new idol. I admit idols are my biggest sin. I’ve become hateful towards others and my compassion has died in me… maybe 1% remains because I do hate suffering if I see it and cry a wee bit. But I still feel dead. I never felt I grew up from my “baby” stage in Christ and never fully deepened in my relationship with him. Every effort dies..I can’t continue the bible study..I can’t read past a passage or two …something always happens…I find I just can’t be as strong as we are supposed to be as overcomes. I’m not an overcomer. I can’t “run the race”.
I’m so completely lost. I don’t want to be sitting in bed with health issues looking the internet for something to buy..it hurts and I feel it is sin because God tells me…I don’t want to be obsessive over my looks but don’t want to be overweight or obese either. I wish I knew what to do
Hi there! Thank you for taking the time to share your story with me. My heart breaks for you and I wish that I had super-powers to scoop you up and fix everything. I have prayed and will continue to pray for you.
I won’t pretend to have all (or even any) of the answers but I can tell you what God has taught me as it MAY relate to what you have shared. I have learned that an empty Spirit cannot be filled or quenched with anything but the Lord. You recognize your longing for other things and that making idols is a common issue for you… I think we all do this but you recognize it and that is VERY insightful!
Maybe play around with seeing if you can give God just 5% of that space in your heart. I know that sounds really vague and hard to imagine but this could look like staying “no” to that desire for just a few minutes and telling God it is for Him. It could be spending 3 minutes reading your Bible even if it feels like a waste of time and telling God you are sowing that as a seed to grow in your relationship with Him.
This is what I did. I’d asked God to rescue me so many times but it felt like my requests were falling on deaf ears. It wasn’t until I did the difficult things that I saw Him step in. It’s like He was waiting, excitedly for me to partner up with Him.
I don’t know if any of that speaks to you but I pray that even if it’s off point or topic that the Holy Spirit can hand-pick some encouragement and love for you.
Heavenly Father, I lift up this beautiful sister to you. She is hurting and feels abandoned by you and others and yet here she is, still seeking after you. She knows you are the answer but needs your help. Lord, I know that you are for her and with her but, she can’t feel it. Will you please give her a taste of your joy and peace? Can you show her just a glimpse of your unending love? Will you give her a sign, a hope, a sigh of relief that you’re there. Protect her Father God and slowly crowd out those idols in her heart. I thank you for her honesty and vulnerability that shows she’s willing to take risks for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.