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Five Questions to Ask before Giving a Health-Related Sermon

Five Questions to Ask before Giving a Health-Related Sermon

It seems like everyone is seeking health in some form or fashion. It makes sense. Our culture often prioritizes worldly health over seeking God's goodness.

Diet culture oppresses by valuing thinness and promoting weight loss as a fake way to be healthy and worthy. This insidious system is baked right into our safe places like schools, medical offices, and even places of worship. The notion that a smaller body is a better or healthier body isn’t grounded in truth or medical evidence. It’s a deeply rooted belief system of diet culture, not of the Divine.

We may feel like health lessons from the pulpit cover a topic everyone can relate to—it seems like we’re all trying to pursue something other than the bodies we’ve been given. We may feel like sharing food and body messages could be helpful or even motivating. But many times, these messages fall flat, or worse, bring harm. Asking yourself these five questions before delivering a health-related message can help prevent harming other believers.

Is body weight being confused with health?

We’ve been taught that lower body weight and losing weight if you live in a larger body is the way to health. This simply isn’t true. Even though our medical community relies heavily on the body mass index (BMI) to determine health, it’s a flawed metric that was never meant to be used as a diagnostic tool.

Much like our shoe size, weight is not fully within our control, and it is not synonymous with health. Across the body size spectrum, we can engage in health-promoting behaviors (like eating adequately and consistently, connecting with others, getting enough sleep, improving our mental health, and moving joyfully) without conforming to this world’s worship of thinness.

Can this be applied to everyone?

Many diets, detoxes, and food plans are sold and promoted in Christian spaces. But when we categorize food into “good” or “bad” and tie up food lists in an out-of-context Bible verse, we unknowingly categorize believers as well. Being able to afford and consume certain foods doesn’t make us righteous; it elevates financially privileged believers. If it’s not available to all of Jesus’ followers, I can’t believe God would require it of anyone.

Does this message acknowledge body diversity?

If we’re promoting weight loss or one type of body—a smaller one—we are not celebrating the vast array of bodies God put on the earth. We can see and accept the beauty of different languages and the creation of bodies of all colors. But diet culture has led us to think there’s only one shape or size.

It’s time we celebrate that body diversity is divine and has always been with us. Bodies big, small, and everything in between aren’t a mistake; they’re miraculous.

Is sharing my journey helpful?

Even if you’re a person of influence, you don’t owe those around you personal information about your health. Self-disclosure can sometimes be a helpful tool, but this isn’t always the case. For example, if a medical professional has told you that losing weight (by dieting or weight-loss drugs) will bring you lasting health, this is not a safe or helpful disclosure.

If this scenario was a real experience for you, I’m very sorry that was the advice you got in what should have been a safe place. It's unfortunate, because dieting or pursuing weight loss at any cost is the number one predictor of developing an eating disorder and becoming consumed by body and food worries.

Jesus never asked us to shrink or diet

And 95 percent of all weight-loss attempts fail by the three- to five-year mark, causing poorer health outcomes than staying at a stable (yet higher) weight. Our culture and the medical community may praise weight loss, but know this: Jesus never asked us to shrink or diet.

What is this message in service to?

When delivering a message related to bodies or food, we must be very careful not to merge biblical language with diet culture beliefs. One of the most common verses used to support diet culture in the church is 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

We’ve missed the mark when we use this verse to suggest that we should eat well, move more, or abstain from certain foods.

We’ve viewed the Bible through the lens of our culture.

This verse is in no way about food. It proclaims that our bodies are temples because the Holy Spirit already lives within them; no food or body size changes that fact. When we use this holy gift to uphold worldly thinking about food and bodies, it serves diet culture, not God.

How Feed Yourself can help:

We don’t have to conform to these patterns anymore. There’s another way.

Feed Yourself: Step Away from the Lies of Diet Culture and into Your Divine Design won’t just help you step away from the traps of our culture; it will help you lead other believers out of harm’s way as well. You may just find your own path to food and body freedom along the way.

This book can help you uproot diet culture in our safest place—the church. When we show up as fed believers, living without the restrictions of diet culture, we can truly be the hands and feet of Christ. Let’s step into truth together.