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I’m suggesting something that Lucia and I do; it’s our plan, not yours. Each person must seek the Lord, trusted friends, and the medical community to figure out what best suits them in their journey to present their bodies as a testimony to the radicality of the gospel in their lives.
When I post articles on social media about weight loss with a distinct perspective on repentance, they rarely get traction. Most health-related content that folks rave about are the ones that suggest diets, tips, tricks, best practices, smart food choices, and changes of bad habits. I’m not knocking those things because they do help, but you rarely see “programs” that discuss the underlying causes for why the person is unhealthy or overweight. I’m speaking of repentance, that unspoken non sequitur that we won’t connect to the deeper, and even more challenging, struggle.
Of course, throw in the fact that health-related problems are too personal. Body problems fit better in the pantheon of unmentionables like religion and politics, things we don’t talk about in polite society, even though we know that the formerly treasured polite society left the station a few decades ago, though too many of us still don’t want to talk about what is obviously wrong with us; we’re too big.
I know why I don’t like talking about it; my hesitancy about weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise is because I don’t want to share my sin list with you—the underlying matters that create the bigger, more visible matters. Though I want to live a life of integrity with you and before the Lord, it is tempting to draw back and hide parts of my life from the community. The irony, as well as the deception, is that I cannot conceal my physicality from anyone.
But when he came to himself (Luke 15:17).
A few years ago, Lucia and I began a process of repenting of the poor fitness patterns in our lives by sculpting out a practical and workable plan for objective and measurable transformation. The first step in our plan was the most demanding and challenging of the three stages; it was a not-so-simple process to submit our lives to the Lord while holding each other accountable.
Step #1 – Repentance will determine the quality of our health. If we do not get this first step right, we will not reach our goals. Genuine repentance is not primarily about a plan but about our hearts. There are thousands of weight loss plans in the marketplace. The cultural gurus give us their ideas, but there is only one way to repent: it is a gift from God (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
I have tried different programs offered by health advocates. Most of them worked to some degree, but none of them hit the actual target because all of them were various forms of behavioral modification. Those plans give you a methodology that focuses on what you can see in the physical world, but they do not zero in on what you cannot see, which is in our hearts—the spiritual person. Though there are practical necessities to losing weight, internal transformation is more critical.
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Putting off bad food and putting on better food does not change what is wrong inside of us, spiritually speaking. Therefore, our goals must be more than trying to look good on the outside. We must perceive and work on what the Lord values. God knows and treasures our hearts (1 Samuel 16:17; Matthew 23:27). Our primary goal must be more about the Lord than cultural expectations or our preferred body image. We are on the right path if we want to begin in our hearts, which begs the bigger question: repent of what?
Thinking about our souls brings us to the most crucial question within the repentance construct: What are the hidden idolatries of our hearts? When I thought about these things, I began writing down those idolatries that tempted me to stay the way I am. Here is my sin list; though it’s not exhaustive, it is helpful enough to bring me to the place where I had to decide if I would live in a self-imposed delusional stupor full of misdirections and rationalizations or honestly cry out to God for help.
Comfort, Anxiety, Fear, Self-Reliance, Deceit, Lack of Self-control, Worry, Arrogance, Unbelief, Lacks Sympathy, Discouragement, Spiritual, Blindness, Self-righteous, Laziness, Hypocrisy.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).
All those hidden idolatries worked together for evil as a sinful constellation that kept me in bondage to poor health. Rather than tackling them all at once, I commenced with one. I chose hypocrisy first, as it seemed a good starting point to begin the change process. It is hypocritical for me to counsel, disciple, train, or teach other people how to gain victory in any area of their lives when I am not trying to secure victory in a particular area of my life.
In my case, it was poor health choices, which manifested primarily as (1) overeating, (2) eating the wrong foods, and (3) not exercising. Hypocrisy is a form of rationalization that stratifies sin by saying, “My sin is not as bad as your sin.” Even though the consequences of sin can be different, it is intellectually dishonest to think my sin is of lesser importance to the Lord (James 2:1). Any sin is enough for Christ to die on the cross.
I needed to address my heart sufficiently before engaging the gay guy, the angry guy, the addicted guy, the adulterer, or the victim-centered spouse. I asked the Lord to search my heart, which meant it was time for me to be honest with God, myself, and others (Psalm 139:23-24). Taking the log from my eye first is a better move than intellectually dishonest, spiritualized acrobatics that makes me feel superior to others.
I could no longer ignore how my poor health choices were feeding my idolatries, a process that led to another question: “When would I indeed come to the end of myself regarding my health?” No longer could I shuffle my sin around in my head while trying to make myself feel better about myself. It was time to take my soul to task, which meant examining how my heart sins led to behavioral sins. Let me explain the connection between heart sins that create personal and relational frustrations as I work through my list with you.
Owning these moving parts in my heart was enough to motivate me to do something. What about you? Though your sin list may be different from mine, you must deal with the ruling motives of your heart because whatever they are, they do rule you. If you are willing to take your soul to task by being painfully honest with yourself and God, you can move on to the next step to better health. But first, I want you to answer these questions.
Step #2 – I began to let my family know what was going on in my life and kept them informed of my progress. I did not wait for them to ask me. It would help if you held them accountable for holding you accountable. Too often, a person blames friends for not being effective accountability partners. There may be some truth to that, but it should not stop you from leading them by being honest, transparent, and forthright about what God is doing in your life. Nobody but the Lord will love you the way you need to be loved, so you need to lead others in how to love you well. Be their example. Lead them. Teach them how to take care of you.
Step #3 – Determine what you will eat. In this step, you will have to insert your own personal, doable, practical plan. A customized plan means you have to do your research and write out a proper program for you. The method you decide to implement will be the core of your program.
You and your community must determine what kinds and how much of what types of food you will eat. Better health happens in a community. Only you, the Lord, your friends, and your medical community can speak to this critical step. The hardest part is what you are doing now—being honest about your authentic self.
We do not provide medical advice, so before you do anything that alters your health, you must check with your trusted medical community to gain their perspectives, advice, and recommended paths forward.
If being overweight is a sin pattern in your life, the strategies to overcome this problem are no different from any other sin. The temptation is to isolate, ignore, and justify what you do. If the Lord has spoken to you, gather your team of friends and get to work. Here are six keys that will help you:
Eat healthily and exercise with gratitude, knowing there is coming a day when these privileges of grace may not be ours. I do not want to look back when I am seventy-five years old, regretting how I did not take advantage of the grace given to me because of my unwillingness to repent (Psalm 19:13). And I want to remember the next time I come alongside a friend struggling with a particular sin, realizing how difficult it is for me to apply the gospel to this one area practically. We are fellow strugglers who need each other in this great adventure with the Lord.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).