Can Your Faith Help You Lose Weight?
Here are 10 ways having even a little faith can help you make healthier choices.
While some people turn to a personal trainer or health coach to jump-start weight loss, others turn up toward the heavens. Most religions have some type of sentiment that our body is a temple, after all. 1 Corinthians 10:31 reads, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
It’s something Jeanne Larson, a California certified health coach and founder of Endurance Fit for Life, subscribes to. “What I’m doing with my physical body is honoring to the Lord,” Larson says, who ran her first ever half-marathon last year for a children’s cancer charity. “As I was running 13 miles I said ‘Lord, I’m doing this for them and I need you to help me.'”
Whether you’re an avid believer or don’t consider yourself spiritual at all, can faith in…something…help you reach your body goals?
You Have a Support System
Many faith-based institutions are beginning to offer fitness classes—sanctuary Zumba anyone?—as well as weight loss support groups that use Bible-based programs like Bod4God. What they have in common is support, which Larson says is essential. (It’s also part of the 10 Rules of Forever Weight Loss.)
Bonus: Most of the fitness programs are free for members of that house of worship.
You Focus on the Future
When her infant daughter passed away, Nicole S. of Arizona used faith and fitness to cope. “I grabbed my running shoes and started down the dusty trails near where we lived. I remember running and crying so hard I couldn’t see. I would pray and yell at God through sweat and tears,” she says.
Exercise is what gave her the focus to connect with her faith and find a path forward. To apply to your own life, try talking out your worries as you work out, even if it’s just silently in your head, and see if inspiration for a future goal comes into focus.
You Find Self-Acceptance
Personal trainer Melissa Rosson says her faith steered her away from competitive bodybuilding, a place where she didn’t feel good about herself. “My faith centers me and brings me peace and contentment in an industry that is often fraught with backbiting and comparisons,” she says. Her beliefs have led her to be more compassionate with herself.
Nicole S. echoes that sentiment. “When I have struggles with body image and feeling comfortable in my skin, I use my faith to recognize the God-given talents,” she says. Believing you were made the way you are for a reason means the way you are is probably A-OK.
You Won’t Eat Junk
I think I feel God shaking her head in disapproval when I treat my body less like a temple and more like a depository for chocolate cake. So does Courtney Y. of Arizona. “When I’m consistent with my daily quiet time—prayer, devotions and Bible reading—I feel focused and make better decisions, including eating healthy foods instead of the quickest, sugariest ones, like I tend to gravitate toward when I’m stressed.”
Many diet experts would agree with some form of this—hitting the pause button and taking time to self-reflect on why you’re craving certain [usually “bad”] foods can definitely help you resist eating them.
You Prioritize Self-Care
One of the biggest barriers to adopting a healthier eating and exercise plan is our schedules—we tell ourselves we can’t possibly sacrifice time away from our kids, partner, job or other responsibilities to work on ourselves. Larson says her faith has taught her that self-care is important. “God has called us to treat our bodies like a temple,” she says.
And that’s what she tries to impart on clients. “I have a working parent come in, stressed out from the grind, and I encourage them to just take time and pause. It can be life-changing.” You may also want to consider if you have any of these habits hurting your weight-loss goals.
You Aim Higher
Most people of faith believe that nothing is impossible. After all, Moses parted the Red Sea and Jesus turned water into wine (maybe not the best diet plan)—religious texts are full of things that seem impossible. Says Larson, “If you really want to do something, depending on your health, we shouldn’t put limits on ourselves.”
Faith Won’t Laugh at Your Concerns
Larson says that if she’s training someone who’s open about their faith, she encourages them to turn to prayer when they have requests. Even if that request is, “Help me fit into my old jeans.”
“I don’t think it’s silly to bring requests to the Lord,” Larson says. “He doesn’t laugh or judge. Never underestimate the power of prayer and don’t undervalue your prayer.”
Faith Lets Someone Else Take the Wheel
Anyone who’s ever struggled to lose weight has probably tried a half-dozen diets. Larson says faith helps her trust that if she’s doing her part—say, eating right and working out—that “someone mightier than you is in charge of your life. We should assess, not obsess, and then it’s sustainable.” (For more tips on sustaining a healthy plan, read these surprising things we learned from calorie trackers.)
You’ll Find Peace
Larson says she works on giving up control every day, a practice which gives her peace. At one point in her life, she and her family were permanently displaced from their home because of a bad water leak. “I was stress eating, I couldn’t work out in our home gym, and I had no control over anything.” Her head was spinning when she decided she was done trying to fix it.
“I just released control and that day, got a call from our Realtor that our offer was accepted on a condo,” she says. “It was so freeing. I was able to hear God, listen and just surrender that worry.”
Faith Reminds You to Be Grateful
Several studies have shown that being grateful can help us reach our goals. Larson suggests journaling for those who aren’t comfortable praying. Write down 4-5 things each night that you’re thankful for, even if it’s just, “Thank you for the ability to walk,” or “Thank you for a healthy dinner.” By keeping in mind what we’ve already achieved or can do, we may feel more empowered to believe even more is possible.