Though I have made the connection several times between fitness and Christianity, if I am honest, I hate relating the two. The wrestling that takes place internally is because I do not want to “ruin” fitness for myself. It is similar to when you’re watching a secular film and then your Christian friend tries to tie the whole thing to Jesus. The unwanted conversation typically begins with, “Isn’t it crazy how the main message of this film is nearly a reflection of the Israelites in the book of Deuteronomy?” And though yes, your friend is absolutely correct, it’s one of those where you just do not want to bring Jesus into it. It just seems unnecessary.
Similarly, it’s when you want Jesus to change your life except for that one specific part. It is as if Jesus comes into your messy bedroom to clean it all up and transform it completely, making it new, yet for whatever reason, you do not want Him to clean that one specific corner of your closet. “God, just, don’t touch that part. I like the way that is. Don’t touch it.” For some, it is direct disobedience, secret sins, a growing temptation, or an undiscovered idol. For me, it can be fitness and dieting. I did not want to bring this to God, but at this point I need to.
Ironically, for some time now, I’ve also wanted to talk about the severity of sin, not in a way to pressure you into guilt and shame but to bring perspective and a sense of urgency. I’ve wanted to run to you and welcome you with open arms and shout, “It’s not worth it! It’s not worth it! It’s not worth it!” Trust me, I get it. Some sins feel and sound so good at the moment yet the pain and false hope that is directly tied into it is never worth it. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay, here we go. Let’s let the “goodie-two-shoes Christian” tell us not to sin. Classic. Go on, Kira.” Yet, just like you, I have my own flaws, temptations, and demons. As I have promised to do through this blog, let me come clean about something I’ve been struggling with. Here is your trigger warning.
Since late March 2021, I have been in this cycle of bingeing and restricting, meaning I eat until I am in physical pain, and then from that guilt and stress over the number of extra calories consumed, I barely eat the following day, or I do an excessive amount of cardio in an attempt to “undo” everything I ate. The cycle is a living nightmare. Only recently have I managed to get it more under control with the help of trial and error, a discord server aimed at those who are in recovery, and discovering what triggers these binge episodes.
It always begins with temptation and a false promise. Someone bringing home chicken bacon pizza from Papa John’s, a dozen doughnuts which include an apple fritter and something with raspberry filling from Top Pot, or anything with the right mixture of salt, sugar, and fat to make it highly palatable. Now, these treats are not bad by themselves, dieting is about “being good” most of the time, anyway. The problem with my binge-eating is eating one slice or allowing myself one doughnut exponentially increases my failure rate. Failure in this case means engaging and completing a binge episode.
As I’ve studied what triggers these episodes, it always comes down to the fear of missing out (FOMO). It is as if my brain thinks one day the world is going to run out of Oreos. So in case it does, I better eat all of the ones that exist in this household, and I better do it immediately. I am lucky I do not have a Costco membership. Another time I constantly experience FOMO is when my sister, Lucy, makes her famous chocolate chip pancakes. She makes them weekly and for some reason, my brain thinks I need to eat all of them, or else I’m missing out on the flavor profile even though I know she will make them exactly seven days from now. The brain is dumb and that’s one of the reasons why I rely heavily on the book of Proverbs rather than my own wisdom. We’re so unwise.
You’re missing out, just eat it. You deserve a “diet break”, it will just be one bite. Everyone else is eating doughnuts, just got for it. Eat it, it’s not like you’re hurting anyone. Your body wants it. Your mind craves it. Just do it. Eat it. These are the thoughts that fill my mind and only upon writing am I reminded of the snake in the garden from the book of Genesis.
I’m convinced, regretfully, I cave. I believe the false promises. Now I’m in trouble as I begin indulging in whatever my body and brain desire, I cannot stop. Wisdom is out the door and we are running only on cravings. I reach for the Doritos and shove as many chips as I can down my throat until my body craves sweetness. From there, the Nutella jar on the top shelf or the Golden Oreos on the bottom shelf is what draws my attention next, and then I eat until I reach flavor fatigue. It’s this weird euphoric feeling that I experience at the moment from the rush of highly processed foods going into my system. I know that this will all end poorly with me hunched over from the sodium and sugar intake, but right now it all feels so good. This rush temporarily takes away the pain from my insecurities. The happiness from food partially numbs any sort of trial or tribulation I’m going through, just for a bit and I believe it’s fully worth it. Fulfilling all my cravings will lead to unending happiness is the anthem I convince myself of, yet I am believing a lie.
Eventually, the physical pain kicks in, and I finally stop eating. This cheat day is not worth it. It never was. It was not worth it the first time. It has never been worth it. I regret every single binge-episode, even the times when the food tasted absolutely amazing. It has never been worth it. I’m in physical pain now, but even when I’m over that, it’s not like the food will adequately fuel me for my next workout. It’s not like masking my pain with food will ever fix the problems going on in my life. With this pattern, I’m only hurting myself. I am the only one to blame for eating as much as I did. I am ruining my fitness progress. I am only hurting myself. There is no one else to blame. Does this sound familiar, friend?
I see a parallel in the way we’ve shifted our thoughts with dieting that can be close with how our society thinks about sin. A restriction with food is almost frowned upon now. The times I have mentioned that I’m on a diet or I’ve been candid with my struggles regarding food, I’m seen as crazy. “If you’re hungry, just eat. Try intuitive eating.” “Why are you on a diet? Just eat what you want.” “Man, I could never do that. I just love food too much.” Now understand that this parallel is not perfect and it fails miserably in some aspects. Food is necessary. Food is good. Over restricting can be just as or more harmful than overeating. I understand that. If you do not have a strong definition of what sin is, I would encourage you to start here. With that being said, this is what I have found about me.
If I ate intuitively, I would be further from my fitness goals. If I ate intuitively, I would not be treating my body well. If I ate intuitively, I would binge a lot more often, hence why I need to follow some sort of diet. If I did what my body desired, I would be hurting myself even if you can’t tell from the outside. We see the same thing with sin, don’t we? Our culture is enamored with the idea of doing what feels good, what we think is right, and what we please. Any sort of restriction is almost immediately frowned upon. “If you want it, go for it.” “If you don’t want it, ditch it.” “Do what you desire as long as you don’t harm anyone.”
What if you’re harming yourself and you don’t even know it? Listen, I have learned the hard way several times that these sins are never worth it. Grieving God’s heart is never worth it. They feel amazing at the moment but they’re all just a bunch of false promises. My brain believes that eating until I’m sick will take away any sort of emotional craving, but even after I’ve eaten everything, there is still that longing that has not been fulfilled. Sexual sin, idolatry, greed, deceit, wickedness, and any sort of biblical disobedience is never worth it. Nothing under this sun will create eternal happiness and fulfill any sort of longing you have hence why we change our minds every few years. What’s right now will be wrong in a couple of years as what’s wrong now may be right in a couple of years. It’s the year 2021 currently, let’s see how many things change by the time it’s 2031. Let’s see how our society has “progressed” to chase happiness that can never be fulfilled by anything in this world.
I’m being harsh because I need to wake up from this lie. Read that sentence again. I have to love myself so much that I can be brutally honest with myself. I have to love myself so much that I can treat my body as a temple, including my mind. You’re created by The Creator and I have to love you enough to extend both truth and grace to you. Love is patient and kind, yes, but it also rejoices in truth as `1 Corinthians 13:6 puts it. Sin is not worth it. Do not believe the false promises that the world will try to shove down your throat. It’s not worth it. Man, you read the book of Ecclesiastes and it will change your perspective on where happiness can be found. Life is not about doing what makes you happy.
Admittedly, my analogy between my struggle with food and habitual sin falls short as it is written when talking about the severity of sexual sin, You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:12-14 With that said, I must not become a slave to eating in a way that continuously harms me. Even if I did not struggle with an eating disorder and all I ate was junk food, you would still be concerned. Even if I was able to function only on Sour Patch Kids and diet soda, you would still tell me to treat my body well and to eat a balanced diet. Why? Because you know it is important to treat your body well. What about our minds?
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2
Friend, though doing what the body and mind crave at the moment brings happiness, what if you’re harming yourself and you don’t know it? “Do what makes you happy,” would we still preach this if we knew the hidden harm to come? Our society cannot even properly define truth, how can we possibly rely on our own understanding of morality, purpose, or happiness?
Learn from me. I’m twenty-two, and every time I have lived in a way that focuses on pleasing my body and mind in the way I believe I should, it has always ended in destruction. Even as I post this, I still struggle with binge-eating, and every single day I must answer this question. Who do I serve? Will I chase after God, or will I chase after unfulfilling temptations? The world continuously shouts “eat intuitively” yet at the end of the day, I choose who to serve. This goes with every temptation. This goes with every sin. This goes with every disobedience. What will you choose?
With everything I’ve tried to overcome my poor eating habits, what helped me most with this vicious cycle is understanding that every day is a new day. I used to punish myself by barely eating anything or doing some form of intense cardio until I could not move anymore, but I understand that living in shame and guilt is not the answer. Whatever you’re dealing with, friend, you also do not have to live in shame and guilt. Your past, present, and future sins have already been completely forgiven. You have been washed clean and made pure by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because Jesus paid the price for your sins, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Unlike cancel culture, I do not care what you’ve done, Jesus paid for your sins! His grace overflows! Be welcomed by The Father!
Even during my worst binge episodes, He loves me, just as much as He loves me when I do have a “good day” with food. Even during the times, I have sinned, He loves me and He forgives me fully. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are given a name. Today is a beautiful day to give your life to Christ. Today is a wonderful day to accept Jesus as Lord. The best thing about Christianity is it is not about your works or what you do, but your faith in who Jesus is. Chasing after worldly pleasures and sins is not worth it, learn from me. Nothing in this world can fulfill what your soul truly craves and you know this. Give your life to Christ and watch how Jesus changes everything.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23