Too Much of a Good Thing: The Idol of Thinness

scale with pearsIn my last post I was telling you how my thinner appearance brought some unwelcome attention from curious people. I know, I know… getting thinner isn’t supposed to have a downside. It’s like hitting the lottery. Those who achieve it aren’t supposed to complain. And yes, I felt better, my cholesterol numbers improved, I could climb stairs without knee pain… and clothes shopping was a lot more fun. I admit it.

But under the surface of my thoughts a new one formed: what if I regained? This possibility kept me in line with every bite I put in my mouth. I began to go from making healthy food choices to making low-calorie choices that would keep me thin. The very thing I had rejected while I was under scrutiny from other people – our culture’s obsession with thinness and appearance – began to take shape in my own heart.

Idol Factories

Our hearts are idol factories, as theologian John Calvin put it. We cling to whatever we think will keep us safe and happy, and we’re devastated when it’s removed from us. I see now how easy it was for me to become enslaved by my eating. On one hand, I was buying in to the cultural message that said I needed to be skinny… yet I had to contend with the fact that food is shoved at us everywhere we go, even on the TVs in our own living rooms. This conundrum is one of the devil’s best ploys to keep us perpetually guilt-ridden no matter what size we are. Evaluating every bite I took became exhausting, but I was willing to do it in order to maintain my new thin self. In other words, thinness became an idol to me.

Here’s the thing no one tells you about weight loss: it won’t make you happy. Yes, there are some great benefits. But I found I had traded the idol of indulgence for the idol of thinness, and ultimately thinness didn’t bring peace to my soul.

I’m so thankful we have a God who doesn’t leave us the way we are. Who gently exposes the junk in our hearts in a way that makes us think it was our idea when really it was His all along. He reminded me that while I thought everything had to do with my size, He cared most about my heart. He nudged me to lay down my terror at regaining weight and pick up my original goal of health. He helped me see I had been following the strict confines of my conscience instead of cultivating joy.

No matter what your personal idol is, God wants to set you free from it. He’s in the process of setting me free from mine. I wish I could give you the end of this story, but it’s a work in progress. I’m learning the importance of balance. I’ve asked God what He thinks it would look like if I were even healthier in body, mind and spirit. My weight fluctuates a little bit, and maybe it always will, but I’m trying to focus less on what the scale says and more on overall wellness. Instead of asking myself how I can look good today, I’m asking myself how I can feel good when I’m 90.

Because I’m planning to hang around at least that long.

Photo credit: Andrew Gustar via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-ND

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2 thoughts on “Too Much of a Good Thing: The Idol of Thinness

  1. Jeni, that was very well written. I think instead of concentrating on being ‘thin’ we should instead concentrate on being healthy. After all, being too thin can be as unhealthy and destructive as being overweight.

    Like

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