We know that the church means well; however, we also know that the church is made up of human beings who make mistakes. Just like the rest of the world, church leaders have blind spots and insecurities. They want to be culturally relevant so they tell a joke or two from the pulpit to make people laugh. Often these jokes are in reference to overeating and weight gain.
This misstep is only natural, given our culture’s obsession with thinness. There’s a cultural misperception that a person in a larger body isn’t taking care of themselves. This misperception isn’t just unkind, and untrue, it’s unhealthy.
Poking fun at eating habits and weight gain doesn’t promote health and well-being. In fact, just the opposite. Church leaders may not realize that they’re unintentionally leading us all down a slippery slope in supporting a thin-obsessed culture where negative body image and low self-esteem reign supreme.
Christian communities have tried to offer books and devotionals that promote weight loss in a faith-based way, but they promote an unhealthy and restrictive lifestyle that isn’t sustainable. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have adopted these disordered eating habits and it hasn’t brought healing, but instead, more worries about food, along with guilt and shame-based thinking. When weight loss is the focus, food fear chatter in our minds intensifies.
And what happens? The scale becomes the idol. The problem is, this is not how God designed our bodies to live abundantly. Plus, He is a jealous God who wants our whole heart and attention with no other idols.
I love the church, and because of my love for the church I want the church to do better.
Once we know better, then it becomes our responsibility to do better. Church leaders sometimes just don’t know any better. They don’t realize they’re being offensive. When they write those jokes into their sermons, they aren’t necessarily thinking about the people in the audience who are struggling with body shame and disordered eating. Diet culture is so saturated in our world, so of course the church would conform to these patterns too. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
I studied nutrition and dietetics at one of the most forward-thinking universities. Because I was blessed and privileged to have the education I had I was taught about things like weight bias, stigma, and discrimination – but before that I didn’t know any better either. Without this education I would have been promoting weight loss and laughing at food and body jokes from the pulpit, too.
Now I know that most of the time weight loss isn’t sustainable and can cause more emotional harm than good. I’ve seen the studies that show that a person can improve their health status by eating pleasurable and nourishing food and being more physically active, without counting calories or attempting to change their body weight. As God’s children we are called to a greater purpose then to try to change the size or shape of our body. It’s a distraction from the freedom that we can truly experience through Christ’s abundant love.
See I’m in favor of all people, especially God’s people, pursuing sustainable, pleasurable health-supporting changes, and letting their body weight settle where it’s going to settle based on DNA.
And that’s just the thing – genetics are such a strong predictor of body weight. I’ve worked with patients whose habits are the picture of health and they’re in a larger body. And, I’ve worked with patients who struggle with food and align with more sedentary patterns who are in small bodies. You can’t judge a person’s health habits based on their body size. And there’s much more to the health picture than body weight alone.
Plus, what the scale says doesn’t matter. What matters is our hearts and our heads. What matters is that we’re pursuing the path of taking care of ourselves (and following the Lord’s direction) in a way that supports our body, mind, and soul.
How did He design our bodies to eat and move? Since He’s a brilliant creator who can be trusted, we have permission to trust our bodies too. He designed them with a beautiful hunger and fullness regulator system – that many of us have lost touch with due to chronic dieting and disordered eating.
I want God’s people to know better and to start doing better.
That’s why our team created an online video bible study. Do you want freedom from food struggles and body hate for yourself and your brothers and sisters in Christ?
The goal of this bible study is to address the heart issues that you have with food and your body – to wave the white flag and call a truce with your internal food battles.
The Food Freedom Bible Study is a simple, gospel-centered program for breaking the bondage of food, exercise and body issues.
We’re praying that this course brings healing to you and those you walk alongside, while drawing you closer to your Creator, who knit you in your mother’s womb, to live a life believing that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).
To sign up for this bible study click here and you can get started today! We are even giving the Compared To Who audience $5 off the course! Use the coupon code COMPAREDTOWHO5 at checkout.
Nicole resides in the East Bay Area where she works in private practice as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is a new Mom and serves alongside her beloved husband in their local church. She completed both her bachelors degree and her dietetic internship at California State University, Chico, where she was also a NCAA cross country and track athlete. Through those experiences, God prompted her to help people of all shapes and sizes discover body peace and acceptance through the unconditional love of Jesus. Nicole most enjoys spending time around a table and cooking for the people she loves.