Do you see the importance of a comprehensive approach to losing weight? Authentic health initiatives require both body and soul transformation. The first step is heart change, which is the secret sauce that determines the quality of your health. This kind of change isn’t just a plan to lose weight. It’s about transformation.
I obviously do not know your thoughts about my question, but I do know mine, which is part of my hesitancy to write about weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise. I don’t want to share my sin list with you.
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 in which I live. The irony here, as well as the deception, is that I cannot hide my physicality from you.
A few years ago Lucia and I began a process of repenting of the poor fitness (sin) patterns in our lives by sculpting out a practical and workable plan for objective and measurable change.
I am not recommending our plan for you. It is our plan. 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.
As for our plan, it was a not-so-simple process to submit our lives to the LORD. The hardest and most challenging step of the three stages was the first one.
Our step-by-step plan
But when he came to himself. – Luke 15:17 (ESV)
Step #1 – Repentance is the first and biggest step of all. If you do not get this first step right, you will not be able to get to your goals. Repentance is the secret sauce that determines the quality of your health.
Genuine repentance is not primarily about a plan, but about your heart. There are thousands of weight loss plans in the marketplace. The cultural gurus give you 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 the health advocates. Most of them worked to some degree, but none of them hit the real 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 your heart–the spiritual person. Though there are practical necessities to losing weight, there is a more important issue, which is internal transformation.
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 (ESV)
Putting off bad food and putting on better food does not change what is wrong inside of you, spiritually speaking. Therefore, your goals must be more than trying to look good on the outside. You must choose to perceive and work on what the LORD values.
God knows and treasures your heart (1 Samuel 16:17; Matthew 23:27). Your primary goal must be more about the LORD than cultural expectations or your preferred body image. If you want to begin in your heart, you are on the right path, which begs the bigger question: Repent of what?
Thinking about your soul brings you to the most important and crucial question within the repentance nomenclature: What are the hidden idolatries of your heart? Here is my sin list, the things I saw after I began to tackle my problem with poor health:
|Lack of self-control||Worry||Arrogance||Unbelief||Lack of empathy|
All these things worked together for evil, as a sinful constellation, that kept me in bondage to poor health. I picked my hypocrisy as a sound starting point to begin the process of change. Rather than tackling them all at once, I commenced with one.
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 struggle in 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: 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 than your sin (James 2:1). Any sin is enough for Christ to die on the cross.
Before I could engage the gay guy, the angry guy, the addicted guy, or the adulterer, I needed to address my heart sufficiently. Taking on the log in my eye first is a better move than intellectually dishonest, spiritualized acrobatics that makes me feel superior to others.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10 (ESV)
I asked the LORD to search my heart, which meant it was time for me to be honest with God, myself, and with others (Psalm 139:23-24).
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 a closer examination of how my heart sins were leading to behavioral sins.
Comfort – Food was a way for me to seek comfort when a better choice was to find refuge in the LORD through prayer.
Lack of self-control – A lack of resistance to food pointed to my unwillingness to appropriate God’s grace regarding the fruit of the Spirit, specifically self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Self-reliance – This “doing things my way” was not relying on the LORD, which spoke to an underlying attitude I had toward the LORD: I can do what I want to do; I do not need You because I am self-sufficient.
Fear – Always attached to self-reliance is fear. When things were not going my way, I was afraid. It tempted me to seize control of the situation through independent means.
Anxiety – Similar to fear was anxiety. It manifested as stress. When I became anxious, I ran for comfort through food.
Worry – Similar to fear and anxiety was worrying. It manifested by thinking too much about a problem, rather than trusting the LORD.
Discouragement – As you can see, there was an interconnectedness within my sin constellation. Multiple sin patterns intersected and interacted with each other. It is no wonder I became discouraged and sought comfort through eating.
Self-righteousness – At the core of my idol factory was self-righteousness–a greater than/better than attitude. Christ came for the broken, not those who pretended to be strong by seeking self-reliant means to keep up pretenses. The LORD prefers the weak, not those who are so arrogant that they will not humble themselves before Him.
Arrogance – See self-righteousness.
Spiritual blindness – Not biblically responding to my sin list spoke to my spiritual blindness (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Lack of empathy – Jesus faced temptation in every way like us, which enabled Him to be a sympathizing Savior (Hebrews 4:14-15). The more I engaged my personal struggles, the more I can empathize with other strugglers, even though our struggles may be different.
Laziness – Not willing to step up to the plate and do something about my health issues.
Deceit – In addition to spiritual blindness, there was an unwillingness to be honest about the things I perceived in my heart.
Hypocrisy – See my sin list.
Unbelief – The biggest culprit of them all was my inadequate faith in the LORD.
Owning these moving parts in my heart were enough to motivate me to do something, which led to the following questions.
- Would I do it my way or God’s way?
- Will I repent at the heart level, which would release me to make a practical plan for measurable change?
- Would I trust the LORD in word only, or would I trust Him enough to change authentically (James 2:17)?
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. Though your sin list may be different from mine, it is imperative you deal with the ruling motives of your heart because whatever they are, they do rule you.
Step #2 – I began to let my friends know what was going on in my life and kept them informed of my progress. I did not wait for them to ask me. 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. You must hold 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 heart. Be their example. Lead them. Teach them how to take care of you.
Step #3 – Determine what you will eat. You will have to insert your own personal, doable, practical plan in this step. A customized plan means you have to do your research and write out a plan that is right for you.
The plan you decide to implement will be the core of your program. Only you, the LORD, your friends, and your medical community can speak to this important step. You and your community must determine what kinds and how much of what kinds of food you are going to eat.
Call to action
The hardest part is what you are doing now–being honest about your real self. Transparency is part of the reason I write about my health initiatives in the public domain. Better health happens in a community. Here are four excellent community questions:
- Will you be honest with the LORD?
- Will you be honest with yourself?
- Will you be honest with others?
- Will you increase the number of people who can bring care to you?
If being overweight is a sin pattern in your life, the strategies to overcoming 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 through this chapter, gather your team of friends and get to work. Here are six keys that will help you.
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- No smoking
- Moderate to no alcohol
- Maintain proper weight
- The grace of God
You are free to speak into my life about my health initiatives, asking me how I am doing. If the Father takes me home tomorrow, that is fine with me. However, as long as He lets me live on earth, my desire is to do my part in running the race well.
I want to eat healthily and exercise with gratitude, knowing there is coming a day when these privileges of grace may not be mine. I do not want to look back when I am 75-years old, regretting how I did not take advantage of the grace given to me because of my unwillingness to repent (Psalm 19:13).
I also want to remember the next time I come alongside a friend, who is 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.
Also published on Medium.