by Ella Walker Henderson, M.A., LPC, NBCC
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
How many conversations each day do women have about dieting? And how much does the dreadful dieting topic increase as we leave the Holidays and Springtime approaches? My guess is that both of those numbers are quite high. Why do women have such an obsessive focus on their bodies and trying to “fix” their bodies?
What if dieting is all a lie? What if doesn’t work? What if dieting is actually a multi-billion dollar industry making a lot of money off of consumers that are willing to try anything to lose a few pounds? What if the hope that life will start after weight loss is the biggest dieting lie of all?
You might be thinking, “Wait a minute…. What’s so bad about dieting? Isn’t it good to want to be healthy?” Unfortunately, dieting goals and health are not always the same thing. Dieting is about a desire to fix your body to become more desirable and often gets cloaked in the guise of health. Dieting leads people to separate food into “good” and “bad” categories and use semi-starvation as a means of losing weight.
The problem with the good/bad food categories is that it intensifies emotional eating by leading people to think they are “good” if they eat the good foods and “bad” if they eat the bad ones. Often people decide, “Well, I’m bad now anyway so I might as well finish off the rest of these cookies.” Or sometimes people try to eat as many of the “bad” foods as they can before the dieting starts, knowing they are about to deprive themselves. A much better approach than swinging emotionally between the two categories is one of balance. There are certain foods your body needs more of than others, but fat is still something your body needs. God never said you can’t eat cookies (remember, Paul tells us in Romans 14:20 that all food is clean), but if you are eating cookies to the exclusion of other foods you need (like fruit) then something may be out of balance.
The other major dieting problem is calorie restriction. Restriction of food intake can be dangerous and can even trigger the development of an eating disorder. If you are hungry from not consuming enough calories, you may start to crave the forbidden foods on your “bad” list. And one of those foods certainly won’t be enough because you are starving! And then afterwards, because of all the guilt and shame, you start to restrict again and on goes the restricting and over-eating cycle. This cycle can lead into binge-eating or if someone sways too far on the restriction side then patterns of anorexia nervosa can begin to develop. God gave you hunger signals for a reason – follow them! They lead you to more balanced eating.
If you have been a long-time subscriber to the diet-mentality, you may want to consider a book that can help you start to challenge the diet mentality and realize a whole other world of freedom in eating and taking care of your body is out there. A great book to start with is Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch.
Instead of the weight loss focus of dieting, what if what God really wants is for you to take care of the body He has given you. Our bodies are not our own but are temples, dwelling places for His Spirit (1 Cor 3:16). Don’t let the dieting illusion fool you any longer: we are powerless when it comes to “fixing” ourselves.
As we let go of the diet mentality, we can open ourselves to the power of God at work in us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7).
Ella Walker Henderson is the director of Living Bread, a ministry to those battling eating disorders. She is trained in the treatment of eating disorders, as well as in the integration of Christian faith and prayer into counseling sessions. Ella will be leading a breakout session entitled “The Dangers of Our Dieting Culture” at Take Heart 2014 (March 28-29 in Greenville, SC). You can connect with Living Bread at www.livingbreadgreenville.org. For conference information and registration, go to www.TakeHeartTogether.com.