I used to love rollercoasters when I was a kid. Little did I know then that my experience with roller coasters would change over the years. Nor did I realize they would teach me how to lean on God to let go of dieting.
This love of rollercoasters is why I was so shocked at the fear that overtook me when, as an adult, I hopped on one while at an amusement park with my child. I had been so sure we were going to have so much fun. But as the cars lurched forward, my guts seemed to stay behind. And for the next 2 minutes, what seemed like a lifetime to me, I was engulfed with fear. Every jerk of the car, every bump in the track, and every hill we climbed, I was sure we would be sent plummeting to our death.
Dieting and weight loss uses fear.
Let’s put this in more specific and relatable terms by talking about diets and weight loss. The diet and weight loss promoters of this diet culture we live in use fear tactics. They use fear of things like looking different, not being thin enough, not eating right, and not eating healthy enough to shame us into temporarily dieting or exercising. But it never lasts. Failure always comes. And we are left feeling horrible about ourselves.
Fear invokes change.
Fear is a funny thing. It can either stop you in your tracks or it can kick you into high gear, leading you to take actions you didn’t think you had the strength to do.
The fears of diets and weight loss invoke change too. Initially there are fears of being fat, unhealthy, and not being accepted. These are the fears that suck us in. Next the fears morph into fears of not being successful with weight loss attempts or fears of missing out (fomo) on foods we love. And then after the diet is successful and weight loss has occurred, fears of not being able to maintain that success show up on the scene. And ironically, it’s these fears that are the driving sustaining force behind the success of diets and weight loss. Diet culture fears have to be renewed on an ongoing basis in order to sustain the changed behavior. Otherwise, overtime, you forget and slowly fade back into old ways. So you keep looking at the weight loss comparison photos, you keep your social media feed full of diet culture, and you keep stepping on that scale to help you sustain your fears.
I don’t want to live in fear.
Is that how you’d like to live though? Continually in a state of fear?
I love how Wayne Jacobsen puts it in his book, He Loves Me:
“Fear cannot lead us to lifelong transformation, but to only a momentary reformation of behavior. Instead of inviting us to enter into relationship with the living God, it pushes us away with feelings of inadequacy and repetitious failure.”
Wayne Jacobsen, He Loves Me
How long have you been on your dieting rollercoaster?
As a dietitian I spent a lot of years wrapped up so tightly in diet culture that it was hard for me to see the forest for the trees. I didn’t realize I was living in a constant state of fear.
My time spent in diet culture was very much its own rollercoaster ride. I was only ever able to follow the strict food rules and exercise (hating every minute of it by the way) for short periods of time. Inevitably the fear of missing out on the foods I loved would win out and I’d “cheat” and eat things I wasn’t supposed to. On again, off again. That was my life. And because I viewed myself as a failure and poor example during times when I was in the “off again” phase, I would tell everyone to do as I say, not as I do. How absurd was that?!
How much longer do you plan to stay on this rollercoaster?
I think it happened so gradually that I didn’t realize it. But I was getting worn down to a point that I knew in my soul something had to change. I was torn between wishing I could be better, wondering what was so wrong with me that I wasn’t able to do better, and hoping for a better way.
Is dieting and weight loss serving you?
What are you getting out of the rollercoaster? In other words, how is it serving you?
I know I stayed for so long in diet culture, living in fear, because I thought it was serving me. Being a part of the diet community, hearing the praises that would come when I would lose weight, and seeing a hint of justification or satisfaction that made me think I must be doing the right thing, all worked to tell my fears that they were working. It was kind of like going to the gas station and filling up your car. Every “success” I experienced was like gas in my tank to keep me going. These fuel sources are hard to walk away from.
I had to learn to lean on God to let go of dieting.
I had heard of the non-diet approach for many years…my entire 25 year career in dietetics probably. But it wasn’t until my heart was ripe for the picking that I actually HEARD it for the first time.
The non-diet approach goes by different names. Between non-diet, un-diet, anti-diet, intuitive eating, and health at every size, there are lots of options. But they all pretty much support the idea of weight neutrality and they are all working to expose diet culture for the fear based lie it is.
I believe God would do this differently.
Can I share with you how I learned to lean on God to let go of dieting? I believe He would have you do this whole thing very differently if you let Him in and trusted Him with your life.
Shortly after my heart had been opened to non-dieting, a friend entered my world who reintroduced me to God. No, it wasn’t the first time I met Him. I had had an on again off again relationship with him all my life. But something about this time was different. It was different this time because she taught how to have a relationship with Him. She taught me that’s what God really wants with us. It’s through this relationship that we develop trust and He helps us break free from our fears.
Spending time in front of His word instead of diet culture
And it was through my growing relationship with Him that I was spending more time in His word. This very much helped me to learn to lean on Him to let go of my dieting. I opened a bible for the first time in years. And I learned some pretty cool things. Did you know fear is talked about some 365 times in the bible? There are two kinds of fear. One kind is reverential fear, like fear of the Lord. This type of fear is beneficial. But the other type of fear is harmful and needs correction or resolution. Clearly fear is a hot topic with God. Which means it’s a topic we shouldn’t ignore either. Especially since the fear present in diet culture is the second harmful type of fear. This fear does not come from God. Here are a couple of my favorite scriptures that have helped me work through my diet culture fears.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”(2 Timothy 1:7)
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”(1 John 4:18)
That last one might be one of my favorites because not only does it remind me that fear doesn’t come from God, but it simultaneously refocused my mind and heart onto loving Jesus. And when I’m focused on that I am NOT afraid what other people think about how much I weigh, I’m NOT fearful of whether or not I’m eating perfectly according the diet of the moment, and I’m NOT wallowing in any fear of failure.
I finally felt peace instead of fear
In the process of starting and growing my relationship with God, I learned how closely the non-diet approach was supported by the word of God. He wants us focused on Him, not on our looks. He wants us to worship Him, not idolizing thinness. And He wants us honoring every aspect of our health so that we are strong and able to do His good works. None of this requires, or can even survive, in a world focused on food restrictions and weight goals. And He wants these things so much for us that He has given us 365 messages to help us break free from our fears that keep us stuck on our diet and weight loss rollercoasters.
So tell me, what does your rollercoaster look like? What fear is holding you hostage on your rollercoaster? What do you need us to pray for you to help you learn to lean on God to let go of dieting? How can we pray for you to move past your fears and step out of the diet and weight loss cycle? Share with us in the comments.
I often shake my head at my younger self who felt so uncomfortable in her body. If only I was that weight now!!! It’s good to learn to embrace your body as it is. I have to mention that I did have at one time a Christian book on weight loss or healthy eating….it was a number of years ago so I forget the title. It was a great read to get a different perspective on this whole topic of leaning on God to let go of dieting, different from beating myself up about it!!! (Now I am in my early 50’s, and having to deal with weight gain again due to hormonal changes. It’s a struggle.) Please keep up your inspiring writing!