As two women who once judged our own goodness based on our restraint around cake, we know an idol when we see it.
We know how quickly a pure, good, God-given desire can take the place of Christ in our lives. We first recognized that our desire to be good stewards of our bodies had become an idol. Quickly after that we found ourselves making our ministries into idols, leading us to recognize how prone our hearts are to wander away from the God we love.
Through long, painful journeys, we became aware that we were misguidedly determining our value through adherence to a set of diet and exercise rules. We surrendered our dieting idol to the Lord, turned away from our sin, and stood in awe as His mercy and grace rushed over us. We whole-heartedly experienced freedom from the slavery of diet culture.
Now that we were no longer putting all our time, energy, and money into dieting, we were ready to serve! Eager to testify about the good work the Lord had done within us and with the hope of coming alongside those still serving diet culture, we started blogs, social media accounts, and a podcast. We were called to do a good work and we were filled with excitement.
We Are Prone To Wander
Without warning, the excitement was replaced with anxiety, feelings of not being enough or doing enough. Once again, the thought “I’m not good enough” was a frequent visitor in our brains.
Instead of tracking macros, pounds, and run times, we were counting subscribers, followers, and business growth.
Can you imagine our faces when we realized we had replaced our body image idol with a “success of helping other women who struggle with body image” idol?
We went from chasing a pants size, towalking with the Lord in freedom, to chasing a platform size. Oh, how quickly our hearts are drawn off the narrow path.
We share this as a warning – if it was your heart struggle before, you can expect it again.
When we recognized how prone we are to wander, we realized how gracious and merciful our Good Father truly is and always will be.
Freedom In Surrender
Finding food and body freedom through faith was a process of surrender for us. When we laid down our dieting idol, the Lord led us forward into a new way of approaching health called intuitive eating. We like to call it following Jesus not diets.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, intuitive eating is an anti-diet approach to food and health that fundamentally rejects food rules and intentional weight loss. Rather than looking to external factors (like diets) to tell us when, what and how much toeat, intuitive eating teaches us to look to the internal wisdom of our own (God-given and wonderfully made) bodies to guide us.
With Intuitive Eating, you are giving control back to your Creator. You are saying, Lord, I surrender dieting, I surrender my body, I surrender my lifelong goal of being a size 4 (or whatever it is for you). You are saying, Lord, I’m going to trust you with my body, I’m going to trust you with my food choices, I’m going to trust you with my health…and you LET GO. That is scary. That takes a leap of faith.
You have to face all your fears that made you hold your health so tightly in the first place. Maybe it’s a fear gaining weight or a fear of some unforeseen health thing that’s caused by eating the “wrong” food. Giving those fears to God and trusting Him as you let go and takethe leap of faith into life after dieting is so powerful for your walk with the Lord.
This was the first area of life where we experienced the freedom Christ died to bring us.
All the time, energy and focus that was taken up with dieting was now an open space, full of possibility and life. The weight of shame and fear driving our dieting was a burden we laid down and no longer had to carry, so moving forward then felt easy and light. We finally began to understand peace.
What intuitive eating had to teach us about healing our relationships with food and body was very informative in other areas of life as well. The skills and rhythms the Lord cultivated in us as we learned to follow Jesus not diets didn’t just improve our physical health, but our whole health – mind, body and soul.
Learning to listen to your body involves cultivating awareness.
Learning to listen to your body is a daily practice.
And, learning to listen to your body makes it easier to hear that still, small voice within.
Letting go of external, worldly wisdom “health” and embracing the bodies God made us and the internal, divine wisdom within is a daily surrender.
It’s not a magic pill or 21 days to “fix”yourself. That’s a false promise of the world and not the Lord’s way. Instead,it’s an ongoing process, much like our daily walk with the Lord.
Staying On the Path
Despite the freedom and victory that came for both of us in this one area of our lives, we still reached for another idol. There’s a lesson here.
Our skill of mindfulness and awareness which was cultivated in learning intuitive eating helps us to recognize when our hearts begin to wander. With this skill we can recognize the early stages of idolatry and get back on the path more quickly than before. We are more fully aware of our nature of being prone to wander and we are aware of when we are wandering, so now we can repent and return to the Lord.
The Lord used intuitive eating to prepare us for intuitive living – a surrendered and spirit-led way forward.
This showed us that the Lord has done it before, and He can do it again. We know from experience He can break strongholds and set captives free, we experienced that freedom with food and body. The more areas of our life that we surrender to Him, the more freedom He will provide.
This taught us one of the most hard-learned spiritual lessons: surrender is a daily practice. As we learned with intuitive eating, this is not a one-and-done type of change, but every single day we have to deny ourselves (our flesh, our will, our desire for a certain outcome), take up our cross and follow Jesus not diets.
This is an ongoing process that occurs day by day, minute by minute, sometimes thought by thought, as we recognize our hearts wandering and again surrender. This keeps us close to the Lord and teaches us to rely on Him daily and in all things.
We don’t have to worry and fret that our hearts are little idol factories. Yes, we are prone to wander. But that’s not cause for dismay or giving up because there is a gift in this sinful nature. It helps us to recognize and appreciate just how much we need Jesus and how good He is to always welcome us back with open arms.
When we find ourselves searching for something and wandering off the path to go look for it, let’s remember that nothing we are searching for is better than God. True satisfaction and fulfillment are not just in the destination, but in the journey of walking closely with the Lord.
About the authors: Char-Lee Cassel & Erin Todd
Char-Lee Cassel and Erin Todd are the co-hosts of Intuitive Eating for Christian Women, a podcast for women who want to follow Jesus not diets. Listen to the podcast to learn how the principles of intuitive eating align with scripture so you can improve your relationship with food, your body, and God, and cast out dieting for good. Learn more on the Intuitive Eating for Christian Women website: https://intuitiveeatingforchristianwomen.com/