What Does the Bible Say About Dieting?

Description

Are biblically based diets okay? Or does God want us to diet at all?

Question

I have a question regarding diet: I’ve been studying diet & weight loss plans and trying them out, and exercising and the whole bit -- gym and all. Then I start to become conflicted about what God wants me to do about my eating habits and weight. I know this sounds weird, but do you think a Biblical-based diet is still applicable?  By the way, I’m speaking of the dietary laws like no pork, no shell fish, etc. Just because I’m a Gentile (non-Jew) doesn’t mean they don’t apply to me, right? If you have a recommended resource or study on this subject I would appreciate it.

Answer

Hi There -

First of all it’s not a stupid question.

As far as the diet issue, let’s break this issue down:

The diet in the Old Testament (Israel) was not for specific health reasons, although it served that purpose as well.  Although we don’t know why God put the diet together that He did, we can discern a few things about it.  We do know that some of the laws were very beneficial health wise, but honestly, you can get just as unhealthy eating too much beef (ok on the list) as too much pork (not on the list), as a matter of fact pork is leaner. But we do see that not cooking a goat in it’s mother’s milk may have been a health issue (one of the more odd dietary laws).

We do know that the dietary restrictions were removed for the Jewish believers as well as for the church. We learned that in the book of Acts, when Peter receives a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals on it and he’s told to kill and eat them. When Peter says that he won’t due to the dietary laws, God says, ‘don’t call unclean what I’ve called clean’, and there is a parenthesis that says, ‘God called all foods clean.’ So, it’s not a matter of you being a Gentile, merely a member of God’s family.  It goes on to say in the early church that the only dietary restriction to the early church was not eating the blood, not to eat strangled animals and not to eat meat sacrificed to idols. None of those were diet issues, but theological issues.

The Bible is a good source for understanding the human body and how God designed us. Consider for a moment that initially all animals, including man were vegetarian (Read first few chapters of Genesis) and that meat eating wasn’t until a bit later.  Also, consider that the concept of the Sabbath (day of rest) was also for our systems to recharge.  God even created day and night for recharging and for rest.  So, clearly the Bible has some things to say about diet and rest and health.  But the key is not to take things too literal and not to extreme. What we must do is find out (as much as possible) why things are in there and apply those truths to today.

There are books on Biblically based diets. Unfortunately, I’m not fully buying into any program that I feel is merely using Biblical principles to market a new kind of diet. Lots of books will likely give you all kinds of suggestions on how the Bible can be used as a dietary tool. Just don’t believe everything you read in them.

Healthy living is essential for the believer for a lot of reasons: making the most with what God gave you (stewardship), properly caring for the world, properly caring for the temple of God (our body) and so on. So, I’m really proud of you for taking control of this area of your life.  I realize how it can take over and become something totally consuming. I get that way about the gym personally, at times. Unfortunately I work out mainly for looks, and health is only secondary. The only healthy reason I work out is to lower my stress and anxiety issues.  So, I’m not likely the best role model of healthy living, even though I eat right, exercise and get the proper amount of sleep.  On the outside I am a great role model, on the inside (motive) I’m a bit more egotistical about why I do what I do, but at least it propels me forward and little by little I mature.

Dieting is hard, and God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Take time to involve Him in the process. Pray through it. Dedicate your work out time to God and ask Him to use it to strengthen you.  Get God to be a part of the plan.

I think this will get you started in the right direction.

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