Stop Dieting & Start Praying: A Christian’s Guide to Lasting Lifestyle Change

Written By Marla Harvey

On June 10, 2019
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Raise your hand if you’ve ever asked God for the overnight 10 lb (or more)  weight loss miracle, or is that only me? Maybe you’ve asked him to help you lose 20 pounds for an upcoming event or to fit into a certain outfit, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Why don’t these prayers work? Surely God wants you to be your healthiest, doesn’t He? Of course He does. But ultimately we are in control of the food choices we make and how they affect our bodies, and when our choices don’t honor our body, or we try to get rid of the weight using short term solutions (aka diets) to address a lifelong struggle, we are bound to fail. God wants us to walk in victory in all areas of our lives, and our health (and weight) is no exception to His plans for good for us. But dieting and superficial prayers just don’t work, believe me I’ve tried and failed too many times to count. It wasn’t until my prayers changed that I began to see the lasting changes in my life that led to freedom from dieting and struggling to lose weight.

The Struggle Was Real…

If anyone knows a thing or two about struggling with weight loss, it’s me. I started exercising and dieting to lose weight at the ripe old age of 13, and I didn’t stop that cycle for almost 3 decades!!! Dieting to lose weight is the only thing I have consistently done over the past 3 decades with little success. Usually, when we try something over and over and it doesn’t work, we tend to quit and try something else or determine that’s just not for us. But dieting is different, isn’t it? Over these past years, I’ve tried just about every diet that made claims to help me lose weight fast. I could tell you about all the years of counting calories, buying programs, taking supplements, reading magazines, following exercise dvds, maintaining weight loss journals, daily weigh ins, etc., but that would be a waste of your time and mine because NONE of them worked in the long run. So instead I want to share how I’ve overcome the need to lose a certain amount of weight and look a certain way, changed my mindset and got healthy (plus lost weight) WITHOUT a diet!

Why was losing weight so important to me?

In those decades of dieting, it was never about being healthy or avoiding diseases related to obesity and unhealthy food and lifestyle choices. It was always about looking like the people I saw in magazines or on tv and movies. It was about wearing cute clothes in single digit sizes. It was about making myself feel good because I looked good. And that’s the wrong way of thinking. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit of God that lives within me and I must honor God with my body. Now I understand that these verses speak about sexual morality and some Christians believe that these verses don’t apply to what we eat and our lifestyle. But if we believe that God does not care about what we eat and how our health choices affect us, then we are limiting God’s love and concern for us, and that belief is wrong because Jesus didn’t conquer the grave so we could eat ourselves to death, He just didn’t.

So if I know that the Holy Spirit of God lives in this temple (aka my body), I have to ask myself “Am I honoring God with the choices I’m making?” If I’m eating foods that cause me to become tired or sluggish, that make me unable to focus, that cause me physical pain or send my body out of balance, am I honoring God with the temple He’s given me? We are supposed to do everything to the glory and honor of God, and when we realize that includes the food choices we make, it makes it easier to want to make choices that are better for our body. 

Jesus didn’t conquer the grave so we could eat ourselves to death, He just didn’t. 

It’s Easier Said Than Done

Wanting to make better choices and actually doing it are two very different things. Paul outlined this in Romans 7:18-19 (NLT) when he said “…I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Does that sound familiar? What about if it said: “I want to eat right, but I can’t. I want to make healthier choices, but I don’t. I don’t want to eat those (chips, cookies, pizza, burgers, steak, candy, soda), but I do it anyway” – now does it ring a bell?

Our selfish (sinful) nature is constantly at war with our desires to do the right thing, and it is a sin to know the right thing to do and not do it (James 4:17 NLT). Honestly, if we were powerful enough on our own to overcome temptation and sin, there would never have been a need for Jesus to come to earth in the first place because Eve would have just said “not today Satan”, and would have refused to eat the fruit. But we are weak, and food has been a source of temptation since the beginning.

The Forbidden Fruit

There is something so enticing about things you’re not supposed to have, am I right? When you’re trying to eat right, and the hubby or your co-workers bring in something on your “no” list, it calls your name, flirts with your senses, demands your attention. Sometimes we can resist, and we celebrate those victories. But other times we get too sure of ourselves, and that’s where the fall comes in. We resisted the temptation today, just one bite to celebrate next time won’t hurt us, will it? That little voice is so persuasive, deluding us in to thinking we are in control and we can handle it. But we can’t, and if we give in once, then we will continue to give in time and time again. Before we know it, we are back where we started from, doing what we don’t want to do and helpless to overcome on our own. But thank God we have Jesus; He is our protector and the end to our sinful desires controlling our bodies and our lives. All we have to do is access that power through prayer and stay focused on Him, and He will help us not only say no to temptation, but also have peace about our decision.

What You Should Do Instead

Pray before you choose your food. Tell God what you want and why you want it. This is really important because often the reason why we are making unhealthy choices stems from a greater need that has nothing to do with hunger. I’ve found that when I’m stressed or upset, I reach for some sort of sweet without thinking about what is really going on or stopping to pray for God to help me through the emotion that’s leading to my bad choice.

Tell Him your struggles with not having whatever it is, and ask Him to help you surrender your will to His. Lastly, acknowledge that it’s not the best choice for you, and ask Him to guide you to make better choices that honor Him and your body. And be consistent! Pray without ceasing – your health (and your life) is worth it. When you stay focused on God, on His word and seeking to please Him in all areas of your life, you will see so many positive benefits, not just from the scale moving, but your faith increasing, your joy increasing (because obedience brings joy), and you will feel better physically because of your choices.

 “…yet not my will, but yours be done” Luke 22:42 (NIV).

A serious consideration when you pray

James 4:3 says when we ask God for something but don’t receive it it’s because we are asking out of our own selfish desires instead of a longing to align our will with God’s. So instead of praying that God help you lose weight for your own pleasure, ask God to give you wisdom to make the right choices for your body and your life. Ask Him for strength to follow His will in ALL things, including the foods you eat. Don’t just pray that God bless the food you decide to eat, ask Him to guide and direct your choices so that they honor Him. But if you pray for this, be sure it’s really what you want, because sometimes the answers we get are not what we expect.

You Want Me To Do What?

My lifestyle change is an example of a prayer answered – but not in the way I was expecting.

When I started my journey to better health, it began with my acknowledgment that I needed to change my life and improve what my family was eating. God began to press on my heart to make changes that were completely foreign to me – I literally never imagined this outcome. I started with eliminating sugar for a time, then I became a vegetarian, and a year later I adopted a vegan lifestyle. When people tell me that they could never be vegan, I completely understand – only a few years before I was saying the same thing…but God. He had a different plan for my life, and I wouldn’t change this journey I’ve been on for anything in the world.

Your journey might not be as drastic as mine. Maybe you need to eliminate caffeine or processed foods, or maybe you need to end the fast food addiction and make time to cook healthier meals for yourself and your family. Only God knows what’s best for your body and your life, and if you are truly ready to make a change, He will guide you through it, place people in your life to champion you and support you, and give you the strength to say no to the things that tempted you in the past.

When you know that you are doing the best for your body and your life and that what you are doing honors God, it is easy to say no to the wrong foods and yes to the right foods. Putting God first will lead to lasting lifestyle changes, and when your health and food choices improve, and so will your weight. When I stopped focusing on losing weight and focused on changing my lifestyle, when I made God first in this area of my life, when I prayed for His will and not mine, when I started making choices that honored my temple, my health began to improve drastically and I lost two sizes – without dieting!

Knowing that I am free from dieting and all the chains that came along with it (counting calories, restricting my intake of certain foods, weighing food, keeping track of what I ate) is such a blessing – I only wish I had surrendered this area of my life sooner! I hope that you too will experience the joy of praying for God’s best for your health and invite Him to lead you to making better choices.

If you’re not sure what to pray or how to pray, use can use the Prayers for Wellness Devotion as a starting point – it’s only 5 days but it’s full of powerful prayers and a guide to create your own personal prayers for wellness.    

If you want specific, actionable ways to change your diet and lifestyle, follow along to get my next post “7 Steps to a Healthier Weight” delivered to your inbox.

If you need help making changes, I would love to partner with you on your health journey. My faith based coaching program will help you increase your faith and improve your overall health. Let’s schedule a time to talk and see if it’s right for you.

 

Interested in a discovery session to see if faith based wellness coaching is right for you?

 

Message me and let’s schedule a time to chat!

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6 Comments

  1. Brianne

    Well this is definitely relatable! I hate to use mainstream phrases that are over used right now. But this is on point. Another amazing , insightful message. Thank you for being such an encourager.

    Reply
    • admin

      Thank you Brianne! I am so glad this spoke to you today! Marla

      Reply
  2. Suzie

    Wow, this is something else! I really liked this article, it is another point of view. You managed to connect healthy lifestyle with God and Faith. Congrats! I do believe in God, so this post was really interesting for me. 🙂 I try to be healthy, in fact, I write a blog about healthy lifestyle, but it is nice to have a connection with faith. Thanks for sharing and changing my point of view! 🙂 Have a lovely day!

    Reply
    • admin

      Hi Suzie! Thanks so much for your comments, combining faith and health has been a passion of mine for awhile, ever since I was working in church ministry. I’d love to check out your blog as well 🙂

      Reply
  3. Beverly

    So on target for so many! Thanks for sharing! Powerful message. And I’ll add, go deeper in the Word for discernment.

    Reply
    • admin

      Amen to that! Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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6 Comments

  1. Brianne

    Well this is definitely relatable! I hate to use mainstream phrases that are over used right now. But this is on point. Another amazing , insightful message. Thank you for being such an encourager.

    Reply
    • admin

      Thank you Brianne! I am so glad this spoke to you today! Marla

      Reply
  2. Suzie

    Wow, this is something else! I really liked this article, it is another point of view. You managed to connect healthy lifestyle with God and Faith. Congrats! I do believe in God, so this post was really interesting for me. 🙂 I try to be healthy, in fact, I write a blog about healthy lifestyle, but it is nice to have a connection with faith. Thanks for sharing and changing my point of view! 🙂 Have a lovely day!

    Reply
    • admin

      Hi Suzie! Thanks so much for your comments, combining faith and health has been a passion of mine for awhile, ever since I was working in church ministry. I’d love to check out your blog as well 🙂

      Reply
  3. Beverly

    So on target for so many! Thanks for sharing! Powerful message. And I’ll add, go deeper in the Word for discernment.

    Reply
    • admin

      Amen to that! Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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