Are you curious about the spiritual roots of weight gain? How does your faith in Christ affect your body? Read on to see what the roots are and how to fix them.
Holistic wellness is defined as the integration of the whole being: physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual. Our culture tends to focus on just the physical parts of health—your weight, your BMI, your pants size, etc.
But have you ever thought about how your relationship with Christ can affect your health and, more specifically, your weight?
Most of us know how to eat and exercise to lose weight, but the weight still doesn’t come off, and we often end up continuing to gain more. Why?
Of course, there could be several reasons, but one of the important, and often overlooked, roots of weight gain is in our spirituality—our faith.
Things like past traumas, shame, and guilt can affect your health and your weight in so many ways.
I know this because I’ve experienced it myself. I’ve now lost 134 pounds, but my story included all of those things.
I had tried every diet known to man, and the shame and guilt that came with failing every one of them drove me deeper into food and excess weight.
The more weight I gained, the more I isolated myself from others. The more I ran to food, the more I pushed people away. Until I was so lonely, physically and emotionally unhealthy, and desperate for help.
But that was not the end of my story, and, wherever you are today, it’s not the end of yours either.
When you pour your effort into nurturing your faith, you will find more and more peace.
Inner peace can lead to lowered blood pressure, a lower risk of depression, a stronger immune system, reduced stress, and improved sleep, all of which lead to losing weight.
By fixing your eyes on God, you will find more food freedom, your fear of failure will fade, and you will find yourself turning to the Lord instead of food for your comfort and protection.
All of these things will help you lose weight and maintain it for a lifetime.
Once I learned, through Faithful Finish Lines 2.0, how to truly connect God to my weight loss, I started to learn how to trade my guilt for God’s grace and so much more.
I realized that I am okay. I don’t need to hide, because God will protect and guide me. He will do the same for you.
Here are some ways to improve your relationship with God:
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Pray throughout the day.
- Serve others.
- Meditate on God’s word.
- Renew your mind by being mindful of your thoughts and what you put into your senses.
- Consider joining Faithful Finish Lines 2.0.
The Concept of Spiritual Roots in Weight Gain
Science tells us that we have a biological history with the conservation of fat in times of food scarcity.
While this is true,
- How many of us overeat when the house is full of better choices?
- How many of us keep eating after we are full, even though there is plenty of food available?
- How many of us have rationalizations for why we ate that last candy bar?
Many of us who overeat struggle with feelings of food scarcity, but that feeling usually doesn’t reflect the truth.
I grew up with plenty of food around. As an adult, food was always available.
But I kept putting on pounds throughout my life, until in my 50s I hit 349 pounds. Why?
Our fears are more in line with feeling unsafe when we are out of control. When:
- Our bank balance is low.
- Poor health comes around.
- Our relationships start to falter.
- We feel that we cannot do anything about our weight because we have tried and failed.
When these fearful circumstances occur, we turn to coping mechanisms. Some of the most popular and goal-killing responses are to overeat, avoid positive self-care, and not prioritize sleep.
All of these coping mechanisms lead to weight gain and overall poor health.
This was me. I experienced low bank balances, poor health, and no self-care.
I couldn’t even walk a set of three stairs without being in tears. I didn’t have any friends because I wouldn’t venture out of my home.
I felt hopeless.
I had tried everything, but nothing worked. I even started to hope that maybe God would take me home so I wouldn’t have to deal with all this.
But He didn’t. Instead, He wanted me to figure out what to do next.
What I did next was what I should have started with: I prayed.
I’d love to say I got on my knees, but I couldn’t because they hurt too much and I couldn’t get up from them. But God heard me anyway.
God can do so much for us, more than food can.The more we can fully rely on God and trust Him with every area of our lives, including our eating and weight, the more we will experience His faithfulness.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” – Psalms 55:22
I now weigh 215 pounds. I have lost 134 pounds. It has been hard work, but God was there through every step. He will be there for you, too.
Every time I felt that I could fail, I turned to Him and said aloud, “I choose to trust You, God”.
I still have pounds to lose, but with God at the center, I can do this, and so can you.
I often pray,
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” – Philippians 4:13
1. Spiritual Root: Need for Protection
Many of us use our weight as a blanket of protection. It feels safe. It feels like a way to hide the parts of ourselves we are ashamed of.
Often, using our extra weight is an unconscious way of protecting ourselves, but when you can proactively choose to trust God as your ultimate protector, you will find the safety and security in Him that will allow you to let go of the extra weight (which really wasn’t an effective protector anyway).
Some of us only know how it feels to be unsafe. God is there and will keep you safe.
One of the biggest reasons we feel we need protection is our own anxiety or fear.
For me, I feared:
- I wasn’t worth getting to my goal.
- I couldn’t maintain a year plus to lose weight.
- I was only going to fail again.
Those were all lies. I used these lies to keep eating and to protect myself from more failure.
I had to intentionally give my fear and anxiety to God and trust His protection. I still do this daily.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” – 2 Timothy 1:7
If any of you feel the same fears and anxieties as I, or even different fears and anxieties, God can transform you.
If you don’t know how to completely rely on God and the Spirit that 2 Timothy speaks about in regards to your weight loss, please consider joining Faithful Finish Lines 2.0.
You will advance through stages that will walk you step-by-step through how to completely rely on God to help with weight loss and to enhance your relationship with God.
2. Spiritual Root: Trapped Emotions
We all experience all kinds of emotions on any given day. Some of them feel great, and some of them are uncomfortable, but all emotions can point you back to God.
We hide the emotions that we do not wish to deal with, typically anger, disappointment, shame, guilt, sadness, and boredom, among others.
For those of us who struggle with overeating, we often turn to food to help us manage uncomfortable emotions.
I learned that when I ate the candy bar, it took the edge off of my sadness, so I repeated the cycle. Every time I felt sadness, I turned to food to fix it. After a while, this becomes an ingrained habit, and, as you can imagine, that habit results in a lot of weight gain.
Much like a drug, one candy bar can stop working to trap the sadness, so I added more candy bars, and, slowly but surely, compulsive binge eating became my coping strategy.
Unintentionally, the more I turned to food to get rid of my uncomfortable emotions, the less I turned to God to ask Him for help and guidance in navigating them.
God gave us all our emotions as a way to point us back to Him. Our sadness can send us to Him for comfort. Our fear can send us to Him for hope. Our worry can send us to Him for peace.
He wants us to glorify Him with our feelings. Far from being bad and unreliable, feelings are actually central to our loving and serving God.
God has a purpose for every single one of our emotions. Yes, even the unpleasant ones.
The more you allow yourself to feel your uncomfortable emotions and use them to send you to the loving arms of your Savior, the more peace, comfort, and confidence you will feel.
You are strong enough to feel any emotion because He is strong enough to carry you through every storm.
The Bible tells us that there are seasons for all emotions. There are seasons for joy and peace, and it also shows us that there is a time to feel sadness, anger, and boredom.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” – Ecclesiastes 3: 1
3. Spiritual Root: High Sensitivity and Emotional Overwhelm
People who are highly sensitive can jump quickly into emotional eating to trap their feelings, which can lead to weight gain.
We all experience negative reactions to some emotions, but those who are highly sensitive can experience even greater negative reactions.
Which leads them to want to avoid those emotions even more.
If you are highly sensitive to negative emotions and experiencing emotional overwhelm, turn to God.
Having God at the center of your life will help you navigate sensitivity and emotional overwhelm. Remember:
“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” – Job 12:10
He is in control.
There are some practical strategies that can be employed to manage sensitivity:
- Practice mindfulness in each moment, be present, and rely on the Holy Spirit to help guide you in each moment.
- Take steps out of your habits. Practice the 3 Ps: Pause—stop and breathe before you eat; Pray—take God with you; and Plan—for what and when you will eat.
- When a negative emotion hits, accept what that emotion is and try to see it from someone else’s perspective
- Keep a gratitude journal that you write in each day and read it when you are experiencing emotional overwhelm.
- Practice a self-care routine daily.
4. Spiritual Root: Resistance to Forgiveness and Self-Rejection
I held onto anger and resentment for so long. I also put on enormous amounts of weight during this period, and I had no idea they were related.
I was so mad at my first husband because I was supposed to be married, and that was to be my only husband.
After my divorce, I found another fiance who was unsafe for myself and my children, and again, I held anger and resentment against him. I would show them.
All I did was resist forgiving, which turned me inward and led me to eat more, trap more emotions, become highly sensitive to anger, and gain weight.
I didn’t hurt them in the least. They were fine and went on to live their lives; I was trapped in a body that was overweight and unhappy.
Are there any areas where you might be resisting forgiveness?
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13
What I learned is that when I didn’t forgive others, I found it nearly impossible to truly accept the forgiveness of the Lord. I began to not accept myself and to lose any self-confidence I had.
If you are struggling with a lack of self-confidence, this may be part of the reason.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
God began to show me Scripture that led me to see that forgiveness was not for them; it was for me.
Forgiving others helps you.
I now forgive often and try to forgive for them as well as for myself. It takes constant prayer.
Without forgiveness, the negative emotions pile up, and we push them down with food. We gain weight and sabotage our health.
With forgiveness, we release our emotions, and God fills us with peace and His forgiveness.
Ann Voskamp shares so many inspiring words of wisdom to dive deeper into the topic of forgiveness.
Compassionate Approaches to Addressing Spiritual Roots
Self-compassion is responding to ourselves with kindness. We will often show others kindness, but we struggle to show ourselves the same compassion.
Think of the last time you felt like you’d messed something up. What did you say to yourself?
Would you have said the same thing to a friend? Probably not. I know I wouldn’t have.
Work on showing yourself the same love and compassion that you give your children, family, and friends.
Reflect the same love and compassion that Christ gives to you, back to yourself.
When we show ourselves compassion, we accept what the apostle Paul wrote:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. – Romans 7:15
We are honest about our frustration and pain, and we respond to ourselves in this pain with love that heals.
It is not easy.
There are times that I step on the scale and see a weight gain.
I immediately rail, but then I use the 3Ps I learned in Faithful Finish Lines:
- I Pause – think about what does this really mean?
- I Pray – God help me to be compassionate to myself; and
- I Plan – what can I say to myself that will show compassion?
The source of your weight gain is not just more food and less exercise.
There is so much more to weight gain than that. Your spiritual health has such a great impact on your body and your emotional and mental health, as well.
The more you address these spiritual roots of weight gain, the more freedom in Christ you will experience and you will be able to: build and strengthen your relationship with God; making Him the center of your life; and you will be able to
- Feel your emotions instead of eating to trap them and gain weight.
- Trust God to be in control and experience less fear and anxiety.
- Forgive others and accept God’s forgiveness of you.
- Experience self-compassion.
You can do this. God will help you.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” – Isaiah 41:13
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Tammy Carnevale has been a member of Faithful Finish Lines 2.0 since January of 2020 and has lost 125 so far, bringing her starting weight of 349 pounds down to 224 pounds. She also manages her Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia with the tools she has learned in FFL program. Her passion is to use her writing and her own experience to help and support other women on their own weight loss journeys and managing chronic illness.