This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series on how the gospel changes the way we look at weight, body image, and food. ---
When we think of addictions, we often think of things like drugs and alcohol. You might add pornography or sex into the list. For many, these aren’t the addictions that plague us. And no, I’m not talking about debt and money, although those certainly are addictions that plague many people.
What I’m talking about has to do with weight loss, body image, and food.
My name is Josh…and I’m addicted to food.
If you are like me, you love food. You might be one of those people who just loves to snack. You always seem to have a bowl of candy on your desk, or you grab a bag of chips mindlessly. Sitting in front of the TV, you find yourself eating something. It isn’t anything big; it isn’t a meal, you just eat, all the time.
Maybe for you it is dessert. You can’t go to bed without eating dessert. It is a comfort when life seems out of control. A long day is made better with a bowl of ice cream, a piece of pie, or some chocolate.
For me, I was never much of a snacker. When my wife Katie and I would take road trips, I never really wanted snacks. But I couldn’t resist the stops we could make for a hearty meal.
There is something else we might have in common. For you, it might not be food that is a problem. It is how you feel about yourself. The constant comparison to magazine covers or TV ads, the inferiority complex you have as you compare yourself to that guy in your office, the one who can eat whatever he wants and lose a pound, or the woman who always looks put together. You put yourself up against your sibling who always seems confident, looks great, and feels great, kind of like an annoying commercial.
Across the board in America there is a problem when it comes to food addiction, weight loss, stress, health, and body image. Today, there are more people overweight and obese than ever before. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 35.7% of adults are overweight or obese. 17% of children, or 12.5 million, are overweight or obese.
Consider this: 44% of U.S. women are on a diet, 29% of U.S. men are on a diet, 80% of U.S. women do not like how they look, and $109 million is spent in the U.S. every day on diet and weight loss products. Among those who lose weight while on a diet, 95% will regain all of the weight they lost within the first 5 years. Concerning stress, 43 percent of U.S. adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) study.
Is This It?
Maybe you have gotten to the place where you’ve asked, “Is this it? Is this really how life was meant to be lived?” Was I meant to envy the body of someone else, envy the six pack abs, butt, or hips of someone else?
My change began 6 years ago. There wasn’t a magic pill of any kind, I didn’t have a surgery, but things in my heart began to change, which led to things in my life changing.
I wasn’t always overweight. In fact, in college I played soccer all 4 years but when college ended, I continued to eat like I played soccer year round and then my metabolism came to a screeching halt and well, you can guess the rest. I ballooned up to almost 300 pounds. Someone looked at our wedding pictures recently and asked how much weight I lost. When I told them I lost 130 pounds, they said, “You lost a jr. higher.”
Maybe you are reading this and think, “I don't have an eating problem. I’m not overweight, but I can’t stop looking at the bodies that others have. I starve myself to look a certain way, to feel beautiful.”
Maybe you are like a guy I had lunch with recently. He eats like he doesn’t know fruit or vegetables exist, but he doesn’t gain any weight. For him, weight is an issue others deal with, but he doesn’t view his body the way God does.
Our Bodies and the Gospel
Often, when it comes to our bodies, the only time we bring the gospel into the conversation is if we are talking about sex. This is too small of an application. If the gospel changes everything and if the gospel one day restores all things, then our bodies, health, body image, and weight loss should fit into the discussion.
Two ideas have changed how I think about food, weight loss, health, pace in life, body image and how I talk about them. The first is found in the first chapter of the Bible in Genesis 1 where it tells us that we as humans are made in the image of God. We are made in the image of God. Most Christians do not believe this. How do I know? We envy other people’s images instead of celebrating our own.
The second idea is a verse that gets quoted to encourage Christians to not smoke or drink, at least, that is how the pastor of the church I grew up in used it. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 it says, 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. Glorify God in your body.
These two thoughts and their implications changed my life.
Josh Reich is the Pastor of Preaching & Vision at Revolution Church, an Acts 29 church in Tucson, AZ. He is married to his high school sweetheart and they have 4 kids and are adopting any day from Ethiopia. He is currently working on a book about weight loss, health, body image and the gospel. He blogs at www.joshuareich.org and you can follow him on twitter at @joshuareich.