Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about three things: 1) Politics 2) Pop culture; and 3) Diets/exercise. I have met more people going on more diets lately than I can possibly name. I have met more people on exercise routines than I can name.
I, for one, applaud when anyone gets fit. It is especially inspiring when someone who was very overweight becomes fit.
I must admit, though, that all of the social media posts about how far someone ran today, about how many pounds they have lost in a week, can grow somewhat wearisome. But in an age when most of us live sedentary lives; when most of us have to choose to exercise because we otherwise would not get any, I guess I should be glad.
Proportionally to how much we talk about diets and exercise, the Bible does not have as much to say on the matter. The Bible (and the book of Proverbs in particular) does, however, have a lot to say about self-control, our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and about moderation.
Without trying to judge other people, I have tried myself to think Christianly about these issues. In the process of my own starts and failures related to diet and exercise, here are four things that have helped me that might help you.
1. Do something. It pains me to know how many people struggle with weight and overeating. While I may never have been obese, I can somewhat understand struggles. During my college years, I was a lot less active and was a lot heavier. Yet always trying to have some self-control with food and always be doing some exercise, though, I have found that not only is the end result is better, the temptations toward sloth and gluttony are less.
2. Keep it real. Some people have had short-term fitness success with diet pills or other fads. But as people made in the image of God, our lives should not be all about short cuts. By eating real food (and doing so responsibly); by attempting real exercise and disciplining ourselves, the benefits are not only long-term, but may even have an eternal effect on our souls.
3. Don’t make it an idol. So your Nike fitness tracker social media post tells me that you ran one mile in 9.4 minutes. That’s great! We “Like” that, to use a Facebook phrase. At the same time, if your personal fitness goals and current weight become an obsession, and all you can talk about is how great you look and feel, it might be time to re-evaluate priorities.
4. Redeem the diet and exercise. I once heard a pastor say our lives should be about the mission, not the mirror. His point was that everything we do is for the glory of God and fulfilling His mission for our lives. Why do we want to eat responsibly? It is just to be better looking? Or is it more about stewardship and not abusing food and the body? Why do we exercise? Is it for bragging rights, or is to be disciplined and prepared to serve in ways we are needed.
Now I don’t like watching what I eat. I loathe doing push-ups, pull-ups and running. In short, I hate the gym and love the dinner. But, by God’s grace, I will learn to love these things and to live more responsibly in these key areas, all for God’s glory.
“Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV)