Diets are very popular in modern society. New diet fads are started each year, which quickly attract many followers. Keto, Paleo, and intermittent fasting. are diet trends that many people are readily familiar with in today’s world.
In fact, there is an entire culture around diets known as the “diet culture,” which encourages the pursuit of thinness through regular dieting.
This movement does not include those who must follow certain diets for health concerns and illness, but rather is about dieting to achieve thinness or an ideal image.
According to Anita Daryanani, a dietetic intern, the diet culture “places importance on restricting calories, normalizes negative self-talk, and labels certain foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’” (“What is Diet Culture?” UC San Diego Recreation).
While diets may seem to be a normal part of society, there are many biblical concerns about diet culture. This movement has caused many people to develop eating disorders, which result in critical health issues.
Furthermore, diet culture deceives individuals into believing that their worth and value is in their appearance and that their ultimate fulfillment comes from their “health.” Christians should avoid diet culture because of the movement’s lies and unbiblical basis.
Finding Worth in Appearance
The diet culture thrives off the lie that a person’s worth is tied to their appearance. Because the movement emphasizes thinness, those who fall into the trap of the diet culture often become obsessed with obtaining the perfect look physically.
One need only to look at “thinspiration” accounts on social media to see the lengths that people are willing to go to obtain and maintain thinness at all costs.
Such diets as the Keto, Paleo, or intermittent fasting are being used by both men and women as they seek to mold their appearance into what diet culture teaches is “healthy,” “beautiful,” or “attractive.”
Such diets have often proven to be risky in the attempt to achieve thinness. Some men and women have developed dangerous eating disorders from following popular diets.
Furthermore, according to Harvard Health, some diets, such as Keto, can cause an increase in bad cholesterol as well as lead to kidney and liver problems (“Should you try the keto diet?” Harvard Health).
While the physical side effects of the diet culture have proven to be dangerous, there is a major spiritual concern with its teaching that a person’s worth is found in their appearance. The Bible does emphasize the need to care for one’s body as a proper steward (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
However, a person’s worth is not found in their appearance or how “thin” a person may or may not be. People have inherent worth because they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:14). Based on the Bible, a person has worth because of God, not because of their appearance.
Also, God does not place an emphasis on people’s outward appearance. A Christian will not be deemed more worthy or acceptable to God because they look like a model or athlete on the cover of a magazine.
As the Lord told Samuel when He was directing the prophet to the true king of Israel, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).
Likewise, when discussing beauty, the Bible teaches that the Lord admires inner more than outward beauty, “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4, NIV).
Health Equals Fulfillment
Another problem with diet culture is that it encourages individuals to seek fulfillment in their health. By following a certain diet, men, and women are led to believe they will be happier and healthier as they pursue thinness through unhealthy dieting behaviors.
In teaching that dieting leads to great health, diet culture is promoting the lie that people can find fulfillment in other things apart from God. Such a view quickly leads to making health an idol.
While health certainly is valuable, as no one enjoys being sick or injured, the “health” of diet culture is not truly healthy.
As was shown in the quote by Anita Daryanani, diet culture encourages restrictive diets and negative self-talk, which resembles eating disorder habits more than healthy ones.
Since an obsession with diets often leads to eating disorders and health problems, the diet culture does not promote healthy habits.
In addition to promoting unhealthy behaviors, following the diet culture, or seeking to obtain “health” will not bring anyone lasting fulfillment.
The Apostle Paul was able to find contentment and fulfillment in his relationship with Christ, regardless of his physical or environmental conditions.
As he stated in Philippians, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11, NIV).
Paul could endure hunger and beatings because of his close relationship with Jesus, which meant more to him than anything else in the world (Philippians 3:8).
Unlike the teachings of the diet culture, Jesus provides lasting and satisfying fulfillment. Only Jesus can give the gift of eternal life and the presence of overflowing living water in the life of the believer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 4:14).
Christians need not look anywhere else to find their worth or fulfillment, for in Christ they have all they need and desire (Philippians 4:19).
Preoccupation with the Present
Maintaining thinness and an attractive look is a major part of diet culture. Diets are very popular because they offer a way to stay looking young and fit. However, followers of diet culture often overlook the fact that one day their bodies will run down.
Even if someone lives for a long time, the health which they so coveted will no longer be obtainable. People may find fleeting pleasure in manipulating what they eat and do to achieve a desired look or level of so-called health, but these things can and will quickly fade away (1 Peter 1:24).
The present world is fading away, just as all human bodies are deteriorating due to the presence of sin (1 John 2:17). In contrast, regardless of one’s health, believers have the hope of a future life in a resurrected body, which will not be inundated with sickness and disease (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
Trying to stay healthy to serve the Lord is a good and honorable pursuit, but the Christian should understand that there is more to life than health and one’s appearance.
As Paul told his young friend, Timothy, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8, NIV).
In eternity, there will be more important matters than what diet a person was following or how much they weighed.
Cultivating godly qualities in one’s life is useful for the present life and eternity (2 Peter 1:5-7). When all Christians stand in front of Christ, they will be judged on what they did in their life.
This judgment is not about their salvation, but rather is about rewards or loss of rewards for the believer (1 Corinthians 3:15).
How one lived their life for Christ, making the most of every opportunity, will be evaluated by the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:10). Growing in Christlikeness, then, is a much more valuable pursuit than chasing after thinness or the latest diet.
A Christian Response to Diet Culture
Christians should seek to care for and respect their body, but they must recognize that life is not solely about health and appearance.
Within diet culture, people are being led to believe that their value and worth are tied to their physical appearance and that they can find true fulfillment in pursuing “health” through dieting.
Followers of Jesus do not have to fall for the lies propagated by diet culture because they have fulfillment and worth in Christ.
Instead of idolizing thinness and popular diets, Christian men and women should remember their identity in Christ. God looks at the heart and values inner beauty above outward physical appearance.
People are physical beings but are also much more. The world may choose to focus on the here and now, obsessing over physical appearance and the latest diets, but Christians can choose a healthier and better perspective, an eternal focus.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.