For many people, maintaining a proper weight and a healthy relationship with food is a constant struggle. In an audio message shared Tuesday on his website, DesiringGod.org, Pastor John Piper, chancellor of the Minnesota-based Bethlehem College & Seminary, talks with pastor and author Paul David Tripp about food and weight loss. The pastors say the battle to lose weight isn't just physical, it's spiritual.
"The physical side of weight loss will happen in a lot of different ways for various people," says Piper. "But there's a spiritual dimension to weight loss that we all need to be aware of."
Tripp, who has lost 40 pounds, says fad diets don't work because they don't address the spiritual root cause. "You can't starve yourself forever. It is not healthy to eat packaged frankenfood forever. It is only when your heart is properly satisfied with God that you now have the power to say no to other things that would tempt you to go there for satisfaction."
Tripp argues that there should be a limit to the satisfaction that believers derive from food. "It is a sweet thing that God created a pleasurable world of food. But that pleasure of food is meant to be a finger that points me to God. It is not meant to be the thing that satisfies my heart."
Weight gain starts out as a gradual, imperceptible thing, until it amasses into something noticeable. Tripp adds that weight gain is often brought on as "the result of the pleasure of food having too much control over the way you think about a good evening or a good day or a good week." The pastor further explained that he had to change his own "patterns of gluttony" and his relationship to food and eat what he should for his physical maintenance.
The result was a 40 pound weight loss that the pastor has maintained for four years. "For me, it was not about weight, though that was an issue, as much as living in a more appropriate way."
Tripp's son's wedding is what led him to reflect on his weight gain. As he began to change his eating habits he noticed how hungry and "impoverished" he felt. "But I wasn't really hungry," says Tripp. "It was just that I was so used to loading my body with so many more calories than I actually needed. And it was going through that hunger that really alerted me to the fact that food had been too much present in my life."
"It is not just that I eat different things, but the lifestyle of my heart toward food has changed."