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Yeah…Immaeatthat

Dec 11

Biggest barrier to having a relationship with God was being a “good steward” of my body.

For years, when it came to exercise and eating, I confused desires of the flesh with what I’ve now come to believe being a good steward of my body actually means. Specifically, a desire to be thin + fit and, therefore, viewed highly by others (doctors, friends, family, strangers) confused with being in pursuit of a level of health that actually connects me to God.

The worldly definition (at the moment) of being a good steward of our body has been watered down by our thinness/wellness obsessed world to (in my experience): you need to be in pursuit of thinness and talk poorly about carbs/simple sugars. Separating what being a good steward of your body means from unrealistic (and, I’d say, harmful) health goals our culture encourages is something worth pondering on.

Before we get into the meat of this post, I do want to say that I have a lot of compassion for myself (and you!) around why I ended up taking being a good steward of my body to extremes. The obsession with self that developed in me was a symptom of low self esteem, intense loneliness in college that was unlike any loneliness I’ve ever experienced (the first couple years of college was the worst time of my life), test taking/social anxiety, and I feel all of those were based in my self worth being highly determined by my performance (excellent grades, thin body, nice to everyone). At the root of my eating disorder and extreme exercise behaviors was me being in a lot of pain. And that pain still exists in my life which is why I still go to therapy as needed and want/need a relationship with Christ. One of my clients said one time after a relapse that the mistake she made was trying to pretend she didn’t have anxiety. Recovery from an eating disorder/disordered eating/excessive exercise is so much about figuring out the root cause of your eating disorder (aka what is the thing that makes you feel unsafe in this world) and then building skills in that area.

Disordered eating can save you from drowning in a world that feels hard for awhile, but engaging in disordered eating and exercise behaviors are not an effective longterm solution.  There are particular components of eating disorder recovery you do have control over and you can make the choose to stay in your ED instead of pursue recovery, such as following a meal plan or food challenges set by your dietitian, respecting exercise plans (whether that means exploring movement or exploring rest), or seeking out ED recovery resources and unfollowing things that make you dislike yourself. Any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your opinions on mental health and God.

OKAY! On to the post.

For me, here’s what I’ve found being a good steward of my body actually means. I imagine it has to be a group of things that connects you to Him rather than separates you from Him, so here are some things I’ve realized for myself over the past couple years:

Let’s walk through these a bit.

This is because a growling stomach is distracting. Low blood sugar for many results in a distracting headache, a brain foggy feeling, or some less than optimal bodily sensations. In my opinion, intuitive eating is good for connecting you with God because it is an approach that over time allows you to think about your body and food less and function as God designed your body to work (by eating and moving in response to your hunger cues and cravings for movement).

In the beginning of your IE journey, first you become hyperaware of food and your body size so it can feel all consuming and for many it’s like WHAT IS GOING ON I FEEL MORE OBSESSED WITH FOOD AND MYSELF, but that doesn’t last forever. It’s similar to when you’re learning to drive a car. At first you have to be hyperaware of everything you are doing, but then it becomes more natural and automatic to put the car in reverse, check mirrors and drive. So natural that you don’t even have to think about it. The same can be true for your relationship with food and your body. It becomes more and more natural to care for your body well as you have awareness of your body’s needs (and you allow yourself to respond to them). 

I feel like this can very easily lead to a conversation on how eating everything you want, when you want it is gluttony. Proverbs 23:2 even says, “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” This is when it’s good to challenge black and white thinking and remember that gluttony and permission are not the same thing. Marci Evan articulated this well recently on Instagram:

Since we are so conditioned to always be on a diet, we believe that anything that isn’t a diet (i.e. intuitive eating) is a massive free-for-all eating experience that parallels gluttony. Yes, you have full permission to eat, but that doesn’t mean you’ve given yourself to gluttony. Intuitive Eating is about increasing awareness of:

  • when you need food and when you need something else
  • what you are feeling and how you’d like to care for yourself when feeling that

Overtime intuitive eating and HAES are approaches that allow you to live according to your values without eating and being in your body feeling unnecessarily complicated.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:8 that, “bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come”. Because of how thinness is valued in our culture it’s easy to fall into the trap of neglecting spiritual fitness in favor of physical fitness. At this season of my life, I find that both too much movement and zero movement are distracting. One makes me exhausted and the other makes me sluggish.

[Note: If you are trying to get away from compulsive exercise, when you stop exercising for a bit (which is an important part of healing) and begin to diversify ways to cope with the stress in your life, you will likely think about exercising way more than when you were compulsively exercising. But this is expected in treatment from compulsive exercise and won’t last forever.]

One thing I’ve thought about lately is that if form follows function, what would be the form of a person who pursue’s Christ? In Proverbs 31, when a Godly woman is being described, the only physical attribute that is named is that she has strong arms. How many Christ-following women in our culture are in pursuit of having huge arms? Many are instead in pursuit of toned and lean arms that don’t appear bulky.

Our broken world says certain things are you being a good steward, but upon further analysis they may actually be things that disconnect you from Him. Obsessing over not eating certain foods, disregarding your hunger cue, pursing thinness instead of health, and overexercising (things our world will praise you for) can be very distracting from forming a meaningful relationship with God. When sent through the wellness and thinness obsessed world we live in, our definition of being a good steward of our bodies can lead to pursing the idol of our ideal body.

I wanted to end with a mention on getting help. If you have a broken arm, you go to a doctor. If you have broken hunger and fullness cues and an obsession with food, you should go to non-diet RD + eating disorder trained therapist. Developing skills to reconnect you to how God designed your body to work and an understanding of why you disconnected from your body’s needs in the first place is a huge part of healing from idolizing one’s body.  (again, this post isn’t supposed to be shaming if that is you. See paragraphs 3 & 4 again if this feels that way.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is pursuit of thinness and villainization of carbs something you see the church encouraging a person to do in order to be a good steward of his/her body? Does pursing thinness help you be better connected to Him? I’m all for healthful behaviors that make us feel refreshed and good, but I don’t think engaging in those behaviors guarantees a certain level of thinness. Pursuit of that thinness can be very distracting. What do you think? What did I leave out? 

49 comments on “Biggest barrier to having a relationship with God was being a “good steward” of my body.”

  1. I absolutely love this and have thought about writing on this topic for years. Very well articulated- I love the connection of HAES/IE to how God created us and as you say being good stewards of our bodies. Thank you!!

  2. You have no idea how timely this post was for me! I have been wrestling with this for a long time. I’ve observed the “Christian Diet/healthy eating” crowd to condemn all overeating as sinful. It creates false guilt and doesn’t take into account the fact that people dont always overeat because they are gluttons. Sometimes my hormones are crazy. Sometimes I waited too long to eat and I over eat. I’ve felt guilt for being genuinely hungry and eating to satisfy that hunger. Thank you for addressing this issue! I’ve printed your post to save!

  3. This is really interesting – especially “if the form follows function, what would be the form of someone who pursues Christ?” thought :). Thank you for giving me something to think about. 

  4. Thank you for sharing this! It’s been on my mind a lot as I set goals for the new year. I’ve spent so long masking my desire to be thin as “honoring my body,” so what does that look like now that I truly want to take care of my body and move away from that false ideal? I told a friend earlier today that discovering intuitive eating was like finding out a secret that I can’t unlearn.

    Around the time I started dipping my toes into intuitive eating, I also heard someone mention the phrase “to live as if you are loved by God.” Love that, too!

  5. Kylie – I love your perspective on this. In my own experience, I found that it was impossible to have a relationship with God and continue engaging in my disordered behaviors. My eating disorder took so much of my time, energy, and thoughts that I did not have time for relationships with my friends/family, let alone a relationship with God. It was not until I was in recovery that I realized that God was missing from my life. I believe that He wants us to care for these precious physical vessels that He has blessed us with, but that looks very different from how I was treating my body during my eating disorder. Thank you for sharing! <3

  6. I love this. So, for me, I feel like restriction and needing to exercise  keeps my mind distracted from having a relationship with God and WANTING to do what I know he created me to do… which is to be generous with both my time and resources in order to serve others. If im restricting or focused on ME, i come from a place of fear and lack abd therefore do not wish to be generous nor do i have to brainspace to care for others well. I also feel like gluttony isnt necessarily only related to food… but anything we’re consuming… like material goods and praise of others.I don’t believe it is ‘food shaming’
    I also feel like the obsession with bodily appearance can fall under false idols… at least for me.
    Lastly, I believe  that since He says He is in us, then the cues we receive from our body are also from Him for He designed us and resides within us.. and to not trust our bodies is to not trust in Him.

    Anyway, that’s just how I personally feel/interpret and it was HUGELY helpful for me releasing my ED and becoming my healthiest self and act in His image.

  7. WOW, I love this post! I love how you connected the bible with nutrition. So helpful and perspective changing. I have definitely felt like Christians can sometimes justify/encourage dieting for the sake of stewarding our bodies well. Thank you for writing this!

  8. I really, really appreciate this. I teach Bible at a Christian School. My sophomore class is only girls as we use that year to teach about more gender specific topics. I haven’t touched on eating disorders and disordered eating yet, but I will in next semester. I’ve thought and prayed a lot about how to approach this. I totally resonate with what you said.

    First, as I’ve searched the scripture, I’ve come to conclude that God is far more concerned with the body of Christ and how we treat THAT body (fellow belivers and our community) than He is concerned with what we eat. Second, God’s one regulation around food and eating? Be thankful. This is something that I haven’t seen emphasized in IE too much, but personally, I use thankfulness as my paradigm for practicing mindfulness around eating. While, like anything, thankfulness can become a “diet” (I’ll only eat what I’m thankful for!!!), I’ve found thanking God to be very calming and grounding for me.

    I think idolizing thinness is so prevalent in Christian communities that it’s hard to address. I also think trying to control our lives through controlling our health via food choices is also very common, instead of trusting God.

    And lastly, I just wanted to share a story. A good friend of mine struggled with an eating disorder for 20 years. When she was beginning her recovery, she called out to the Lord to request that she couldn’t wait to be in her perfect, heavenly body. And the Lord responded, “You have no idea what your heavenly body will be.”, and showed her a vision of bodies of all shapes and sizes, indicating that they were all heavenly. Hearing this really spoke to me and helped my perspective.

    Sorry for the giant comment!

  9. There’s a book called Gospel Treason that I read recently that was great – focused on how anything in our lives could become an idol, because the human heart is prone to making idols out of literally anything! Doesn’t mean the “thing” is inherently bad, (I think we should take care of our bodies!) but when that desire for control (which is so much of an ED) disrupts our ability to trust God or to actually prioritize the important stuff then it becomes an idol. He talks in the book about how one of the ways we can evaluate our relationship with something is how we respond when we are thwarted – so, if missing a workout because my kid is sick or something came up gets me bent out of shape then that’s an indication that it’s not a healthy response. Or, say that it’s a difficult pregnancy and I have to not exercise much and eat more carbs than I normally would – am I a “failure”? Or is it just a different way of honoring my body and the work God is doing creating a human (!)?

  10. I love love love this. During my ED I lost my connection with God due to obssesing over food too much. “Healthy” food, exercise, staying thin were the only things I cared about and I actually felt I couldn’t stay connected with Him and being sick at the same time. As I started to believe in IE eating and realised my body and mind are connected, I found a new but much deeper relationship with God that helped me (and it still does!) during my recovery. I really appreciate this post and your honesty, this is one of my favourites! xx

  11. Wow, Kylie, thank you SO SO much for articulating this so beautifully and honestly. This wrestling of Christian perspective on food, exercise, and body is something I am really passionate about and hopeful for. I believe that, yes, there needs to be much more education and discussion regarding this in the church. I have heard so much shame and fear-mongering talk about food and body in the church, which was what mainly encouraged me in my disordered eating the past. This needs to be said and shared over and over again. Thanks, Kylie!!

  12. Hey, Kylie! I’m so glad I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago — I’ve been able to let go of so much of my fear surrounding food. When my eating was most restrictive, I couldn’t make reading my Bible a daily habit. I even found myself judging the characters in Samuel for eating honey and raisin cakes because they’re ‘full of fructose’ (?!!). That seems so crazy now! Even though I still prayed every night I felt so distant from God, and now that I’m listening to my body’s cues and stressing less about every mouthful I eat I find that I have so much more brain space to worship Him. Thanks for posting this and for your encouraging blog!

  13. The incredible mamas/hosts of the Risen Motherhood podcast did really thought provoking episode on food &the gospel last year that changed how I thought about feeding ourselves & relating to others – and I’m a fellow RD. I love how they reminded us that food is a secondary issue that can unite or divide while the gospel is primary. Give it a listen if you have a few minutes, & thanks for sharing your thoughts 💕

  14. Thank you so much for writing this post! I can 100% relate to this. I grew up in a Christian home and went to a Christian school from kindergarten through senior year of high school. But then in college, I developed my eating disorder during a period of my life where I felt completely out of control. I restricted my food and overexercised as a way to feel in control but in doing that I put my relationship with God on the back burner. I was trying to take the pieces of my life and put them back together. I was trying to “fix” everything all on my own. I was trying to do the things that only God can do. I basically had to stop white knuckling my way through life and give the reigns back over to God, in all areas of my life. But once I started to realize that He truly holds every step we take in His hands, I found it easier and easier to let go of my disordered behaviors. The freedom that comes from Him is so. dang. good.

  15. First of all, thank you so much for this post! I have been a follower of your blog/instagram for the past 2 years or so. I have been having a particularly hard past few weeks body image-wise, and just yesterday I re-read your post about remembering how our bodies are just an earthly tent. And THEN you posted this a few hours later! God is making it super clear how crucial it is that I listen to His truths about how I view myself! 
    What I am working on is being a good steward with my body through remembering my identity. I have read the scriptures over and over again about how God views me (fearfully and wonderfully made, made in His image, His workmanship, etc). I’ve realized that these scriptures have lost a lot of value in my mind, and when I am in the depths of my disordered eating and negative body image, I am in sin. The word of God just isn’t enough for me. So I’m trying to dig deep in these truths and recognize the beautiful gift God has given me by giving me the body I have. Ultimately, there is a closeness to God I can never achieve if I have a disordered mindset around food an exercise, or if I am too obsessed with my body. 
    Sorry for the novel, I just have so many thoughts lol. Thank you for this blog and speaking the truth to so many of us <3 

  16. Yes to all of this! I was trapped in my eating disorder and disordered eating for years because I thought it was the godly thing to do. I think so many women of faith are trapped by similarly twisted thinking and don’t even realize it. Thank you for writing this post.

  17. Best post you’ve ever written. Your growth in your walk with God shines through. Loved every word.

  18. Thank you so much for this post, Kylie! This is a topic close to my heart. I don’t feel like I truly started to heal from my eating disorder until I fully embraced a relationship with Christ. I’ve found such freedom in Him, and in sharing my story and struggles with others. I especially love 1 Timothy 4:8 and also 1 Samuel 16:17. God cares about our hearts! I’ve written about body image, eating disorders, and faith a few times on my own blog (https://maggieniemiec.com/blog/2017/5/9/what-does-the-bible-say-about-body-image). I’d love for you to read! Thank you again for your wisdom, and keep writing this sweet encouragement! <3

  19. For me, my eating disorder separated me from everything including God. I think I always felt at least a thin layer of separateness from God because I refused to completely surrender my eating disorder. When I did recover, I met God in a whole new way that colored my life in ways I didn’t know possible. 
    It’s strange how rampant diet control is in the church. Somehow, Christians are willing to call overeating sinful, but don’t recognize the idol of thinness that reigns. Very dangerous. 

  20. To say dieting is honoring a false idol is beautifully written. I had never found those words to describe it and I absolutely love the eloquence of that statement. Thank you for the thought!

  21. SO good. This idolatry of body, exercise, and food has been satans jam in my life for years now, but it’s only been the last several months that I have quieted my mind enough to hear God call it an idol . He speaks to us most when we are in the desert! What a blessing it is to be thankful even, and especially, in the dark. God is in the valley. Becoming like children again, a God given amnesia, allowing his knowledge to replace all the falsehood we’ve let create us.
    This was such gold, Kylie, thank you for putting to words what is not always easy to see <3

  22. This is so, so good!! I’ve struggled with compulsive exercise, and I often think, “Am I actually hurting this body that God gave me? He gave it to me to take care of, not destroy.” The same goes for eating. If I am really tempted to skip a meal, I know it’s not being kind to my body and not taking care of myself the way God intended. Also, if I’m starving and exhausted, I’m not going to be able to love people very well! Thanks for sharing! :)

  23. Hi Kylie! My sister is a RD, has 5 kids, and is an intuitive eater who is teaching her children the same. She reads your blog and occasionally forwards it to me, which I always enjoy! Have you heard of Pietra Fitness? If not, I encourage you to look into it- it is stretching and strengthening movements with Christian prayer in the Catholic tradition and is essentially an alternative to yoga. It very much follows the words of St. Paul in focusing on whatever is ‘good, true, and beautiful’ (Pil 4:8). Link to it is here: https://pietrafitness.com/. Thank you for your blog!!! The topics are always so relevant and helpful.

  24. Yes yes yes. There are so many things I want to say here.  I have been there. I remember at one time believing that eating all organic and Whole Foods was my Christian duty and otherwise was a sin. I literally put a moral value to food. I have struggled with hypothalamic amenorrhea for half my life because of compulsive exercising and eating habits. I truly recovered mentally before having my youngest child. I had to strip all exercise away. Even walking. And I had to eat a lot. I replaced my time with The Power of Motherhood bible study. This time was so painful because my identity was wrapped up in my obsessive behaviors. God gave me freedom though and He also made me to finally ovulate naturally and get pregnant. Ironically, my body went back to HA land  after that child and I have recovered this year. It took treating my body more carefully again which means less intense exercise and more food and being less lean. Hmmm. Going in reverse of what society tells us is admirable is what has healed my body. I previously also tracked macros to help me gain weight. Do you know how much time I spent thinking about food? Most of the day. It is amazing how eating and moving in freedom in a way to make me feel good offers so much freedoms in my mind and my energy. Sorry for rambling. Thanks for sharing this.

  25. LOVE this post! And 1 Timothy 4:8 is such a key verse for me too! <3

  26. Hi Kylie! I enjoyed reading the post even though i’m not Christian. I thought the gluttony verse that you shared was particularly interesting. This is somewhat off-topic but your post got me thinking about the place of starvation in other religions as a way to worship. Some religions use fasts as a way to focus on your hunger and turn yourself towards God.

    I immediately thought about fasting for Ramadan, Yom Kippur, and Hindu holidays. Lent can involve giving things up too, but since it’s defined by the user I would say it could be better. I think that recovery while following one of these faith traditions with longer fasts could be hard. Curious to know if anyone here has experience with that. I wish you and your family a great holiday season!

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  31. I am absolutely in love with this post and message. I have called myself “the prodigal daughter” as I slowly returned to my Christian faith last year during residential treatment after a decade away. In pursuing recovery, I’ve thought a lot about how faith intersects with all that I learn about recovery, intuitive eating, my body, etc. I about fell out of my chair when the pastor straight up named “intuitive eating” in a message about having a healthy relationship with food. Thank you again for sharing.

    • THAT IS AWESOME! I’ve never heard of a pastor doing that. How cool! IE is a great tool for learning to hear and listen to one’s God-given cues!

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