Kim Dolan Leto, the Faith Inspired Transformation workout creator, who also has a bestselling book and a show on PureFlix, lauds the Church for being vocal about many issues affecting believers' lives but laments that it's largely “silent” when it comes to health and wellness.
Leto, who devoted her life to Jesus at 27, after an abusive relationship, says the church should encourage families to focus on health along with “parenting, marriage and finances,” which are popular topics of discussion in Christian settings.
As part of her wellness programs, Leto focuses on all health levels and provides exercise modifications, scriptures to edify, and realistic advancement goals.
“The Church is quiet about food, taking care of our bodies, and how we should create a healthy and whole relationship with ourselves. In this silence, Christians turn to the world for answers,” Leto said in an interview with The Christian Post.
Leto decided to change her own lifestyle after her father suffered a debilitating stroke in his 40s. She went to the church for answers but said she was advised to fast and told that focusing on health and beauty was "vanity."
She pushed back on that notion, however, and strongly believes God also cares about how people take care of their temple.
“Being stewards of our bodies isn’t something we do until we cross our weight loss goal finish line; it’s a God-honoring project to take care of your bodies, His temple for life,” she stressed. “The Word of God is our manual for life. We’re taught parenting, marriage and finances through the Church, but the Church is silent when it comes to health and wholeness," she reiterated.
Taking matters into her own hands, Leto created a curriculum designed for Christians who are looking to get fit and live healthier lives.
Some readers might recognize Leto from seeing her on fitness magazine covers — she's been featured on 13 covers — or from when she won the ESPN Fitness America Competition.
The following is an edited transcript of CP interview with Leto where the podcast host of “Strong. Confident. His.” shares her own testimony and offers advice for church leaders on how they can help their congregations embrace fitness and health from a stewardship perspective and not vanity.
CP: Will you share your Christian testimony with us?
Leto: As a child, I knew my dad loved me, but when he drank he was abusive. His words created an inner dialogue that led me to dark places of not-enoughness.
As I grew up, I began to choose men just like him. The way they treated me felt normal, but deep down, I knew it was wrong. I found myself stuck in a cycle of dating the same person. One night I hit rock bottom, and in my brokenness, I picked up the Bible. The Words in red leaped off the page and I met Jesus right there in the pain. He gave me strength, confidence and clarity to break this generational curse and live free. I’m happy to share that I've been with my husband for 22 years.
CP: You mentioned your concerns about churches only teaching about fasting and not about body shaming that happens in the church. Can you unpack that and share some examples?
Leto: The Church is quiet about food, taking care of our bodies, and how we should create a healthy and whole relationship with ourselves. In this silence, Christians turn to the world for answers.
Our culture trains us from a very young age that diets are how we lose weight and what we look like is how we find worth. But the deception here creates a divide between the world and the Church that is deeply confusing and dangerous. In Church, we're shamed if we care what we look like; we’re considered vain. In the world, the more skin you show the more attention you get.
I worked with a lady who admitted she gained weight so the women at her church would stop talking about her behind her back and accept her. I’ve worked with women who share they are judged for bringing healthy snacks to their Bible Study versus eating the cookies and doughnuts regularly offered.
To exacerbate this issue, a few new diet programs in the church share fasting for weight loss. But the Bible tells us that fasting is for spiritual growth. This is very confusing. Being stewards of our bodies isn’t something we do until we cross our weight loss goal finish line; it’s a God-honoring project to take care of your bodies, His temple for life.
CP: Your father had a debilitating stroke when he was in his 40s that led to a “wake-up call” for you to get healthy. You turned to the church but said you received very few answers. Why is it so critical for churches to be a source for physical wellness and healing?
Leto: The Word of God is our manual for life. We’re taught parenting, marriage and finances through the Church, but the Church is silent when it comes to health and wholeness. There are millions of women sitting in churches every week who don’t hear a word about how to take care of themselves or how to teach their children to eat and how to form a proper view of their bodies, so they turn to the world for answers.
I believe the enemy has a foothold on countless people here. He uses dieting and body image to destroy people’s confidence and derail the plans and purposes God has for them by making them live in a constant thought cycle of food failure and less than.
CP: Why is it important for women of faith to strive to be their healthiest selves?
Leto: God has a plan and purpose for each of us, but if we are sick, tired, unhealthy and unhappy, we are much less likely to fulfill them.
Also, the way we take care of ourselves affects every aspect of our lives, including our children. We are raising little versions of ourselves and therefore, should aim to be the very best role models for our children, teaching them how to take care of their bodies and to find confidence through the Word, not the world.
CP: What do you say to those who think fitness is vanity?
Leto: If we were speaking to Christians, I would say that taking care of yourself is not vanity; it’s sanity. Health, fitness and wholeness through the Word enable you to live feeling your best, with more energy, less stress, sharper mental acuity, better sleep, less joint pain, and decreased probability of contracting generational diseases.
However, if you’re approaching fitness from a worldly view of dieting and working out just to look a certain way, then that is typically an exhausting vanity project that rarely produces lasting results or wholeness.
CP: Certain fitness regimes such as yoga are discouraged in many Christian circles because of their spiritual origin. What can you share about that?
Leto: We’re living in a time when workouts are considered church. Countless posts allude to their cycle or yoga class being their new religion. The deception of the enemy here cannot be understated. These classes teach worship of creation versus the Creator.
CP: How do you make time for your spiritual disciplines as well as your fitness disciplines? Many people have trouble balancing their lives in this way.
Leto: I follow our role model for healthy living: Jesus. He rose early, He spent time with His Father, and He walked everywhere. Jesus wasn’t lazy and He didn’t feed His emotions; He went to His father. Seeking God in our fitness, surrendering it to Him daily, and living to fulfill His call on our lives is our lasting answer.
CP: You believe the lasting change from fad diets and resolutions includes F.I.T. hour. Will you explain what that is?
Leto: Our culture teaches us that fitness is something that we can buy versus earn. The diet industry is a $72 billion a year industry. But the answer to those of us who love Jesus is free. I call it the Faith Inspired Transformation, F.I.T. Power Hour.
This doesn't need to be a perfect hour, but rather a daily practice of spending time with God and in His Word, moving our bodies, and journaling in prayer and gratitude.
CP: What are a few tips people can do starting today to change their habits?
Leto: Acknowledge that fitness is a marathon, not a sprint. And that you are worth the effort to create a healthy lifestyle you can maintain with God as the centerpiece.
Eliminate the all-or-nothing mentality.
Practice grace when you fall off track. Pray for God to help you get back on track faster and refrain from self-berating talk.
Work on small wins, one at a time.
For example: Start with your drinks. Trade your highly sugary beverages for healthier ones, then start choosing more God-made foods than man-made processed items. Finally, learn to cook or find restaurants that prepare your favorite foods with ingredients that are as close to the way God made them.
CP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Leto: God cares about what concerns you — even your fitness goals. If you’re struggling with losing weight, the motivation to move your body or find confidence in the way He made you, talk to Him. Through the Word, you have the wisdom, strength and grace to live free of the diet cycle of weight loss and weight gain and see yourself as a fearfully and wonderfully made child of God.
For more information on Leto and her fitness plan, visit her official website.