Is Dieting Biblical? A New Look at How to Wisely Get Healthier This New Year


Restrictive eating simply doesn’t work. Make a resolution you can keep all year—to enter a respectful and accepting relationship with your body.


The new year is upon us. You may be inundated with the chirpy mantra “new year, new you.” However, everyone knows that new year’s resolutions are destined to fail. Consider, after every new year rolls around, are you ever a new you? As we enter 2020, can you resolve to be content with the “new year, same you?”

I sat down with Liz Brinkman, a registered dietician focused on intuitive eating and self-compassion. Who would have thought that a dietician would recommend not dieting?! Instead, Brinkman interweaves gentle nutrition advice alongside spiritual guidance and scientific steadiness. If you’re ready to love your body in 2020, read Brinkman’s wonderful advice to improve both your physical and mental health.

Used with permission by Liz Brinkman.

Why are weight-loss plans destined to fail?

Weight-loss plans are doomed because your body refuses to be starved of any nourishment: food, water, touch, comfort, shelter. As humans, we’re meant to be in relationship—with each other, our food, our bodies and God. Dieting to shrink our bodies takes us away from all of these things.

Restrictive eating to suppress one’s weight simply doesn’t work. Studies show that there’s no safe and effective way to do so long-term. Eating below your recommended calorie needs slows the metabolic rate and cold intolerance. It also increases food preoccupation, binge-eating, social isolation and distraction/apathy.

What are the benefits of breaking up with dieting?

By moving away from dieting, we reclaim an abundant life! Discover:

  1. Deeper Worship. We all have a connection to God, partaking in divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). In God, we live, move and have our being. Jesus awakens us to our union with God every single day! It’s nearly impossible to count macronutrients/steps and stay awake to the Holy Spirit’s movement.
  2. Self-worth beyond body size.

Sometimes letting go of dieting feels like losing a safety net. Dieting serves a strong purpose, giving us clear parameters. Diets provide external rules, replacing our internal cues (which our culture says we cannot trust).

Moving away from dieting can empower you, bringing peace and freedom. So, the question is: “if not dieting, then what?” An effect counter-approach is intuitive eating.

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We are used to labeling foods as “good” or “bad” thanks to diet culture, fat-phobia, and healthism. When we are working on healing our relationship with food and becoming a more connected eater, an important first step is to change how we talk about food. Try asking yourself, “Would eating this food be supportive or not supportive of my health or recovery at this time?” This nonjudgmental way of talking about eating allows us to view food beyond its nutritional quality. It brings us, as an individual, into the picture, allowing us to consider our physical and emotional needs. Let’s give our relationship with food a little elbow-room. Take celery (good, clean, functional, safe and legal) and Halloween candy (bad, sinful, cheating and illegal) for instance. Story time: You get your kids into bed after a long, fun, chaotic evening of trick-or-treating. You didn’t get much for dinner because the kids were wound up and excited to get started with the evenings festivities. Your stomach rumbles with hunger. Thinking back, you only were able to eat half a bowl of soup and a couple of tortilla chips. You relax on the couch contemplating your choices: helping yourself to some candy or heading into the kitchen for some fresh-cut celery. Choose your own adventure: A.) You go for the celery to fill your empty stomach. Heading to bed, you are pre-occupied with thoughts of Reese‘s peanut butter cups, skittles, and snickers. You wake up at 2 AM still thinking about the candy. B.) You savor three fun-sized Snickers. You would like another, but decide not to because another would probably push you past comfortable fullness. Heading to bed, your mind is on a much-deserved night’s sleep. You sleep (maybe you wake up at 2 AM, but probably because you realize you forgot to check the backpacks for homework🤯). Which option feels the most supportive to you? Which choice contributes to physical health, emotional health, pleasure, satisfaction? Which decision frees your mind? We are human and we have hunger needs that go far beyond nutrition quality. The idea of supportive food is nuanced and not always clear-cut. But it’s worth the effort for more freedom.

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What’s intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a flexible eating style focusing on trusting physical hunger and satiety cues to guide when, what and how much to eat. It’s associated with positive physical and psychological outcomes. Intuitive eating helps break the chronic dieting cycle, healing your relationship with food, and was created by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Humans are born intuitive eaters. Consider a hungry baby who cries until fed and then turns away their head when satiated. However, from an early age, we hear that “you can’t possibly be hungry” or “you must clean your plate.” These messages erode trust in our bodies, disrupting our internal cues.

Intuitive eating’s ten principles:

  1. Reject diet mentality: Reject voices saying that it’s not okay to be a body size outside of society’s narrow beauty standards. This constant pressure leads us to control food intake, going against our bodies’ natural instincts. “Diet culture” tells us that everyone can and should be thin.
  2. Honor your hunger: Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and diverse nutrients—carbohydrates, protein and fat. Otherwise, you’ll trigger a primal drive to eat, often overeating.
  3. Make peace with food: If you ban a particular food, it leads to intense deprivation feelings and uncontrollable cravings. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat, reclaiming your autonomy.
  4. Challenge the food police: Reject thoughts that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” for eating cake. The food police monitor unreasonable rules diet culture created.
  5. Respect your fullness: Tune into body signals indicating that you’re no longer hungry. Our culture fears fullness, labeling it as “failure.”
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor: Satisfaction’s an internal cue going beyond the perception of an empty or full stomach. It’s about the physical, emotional and spiritual self; the whole eating experience. When you eat what you really want, you reach contentment and satisfied hunger.
  7. Honor feelings without food: This principal gets a lot of airtime because our culture’s allergic to “emotional eating.” This principle recognizes that eating brings relief from both physical hunger and emotional stress. Work to find additional methods of emotional coping.
  8. Respect your body: Not to be confused with “body love,” this principle helps you care for your “present moment” body no matter the shape, size or ability. Respect opens the door to acceptance. Acceptance isn’t giving up, it’s the first step to successful action!
  9. Exercise, feel the difference: Shift your focus to joyful body movement rather than on exercise’s calorie-burning effect. Are you active out of joy and body-connection or exercising as a weight suppression strategy?
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition: Make food choices that honor cravings while also making you feel well. Remember, you don’t have to eat “perfectly” to be healthy. Consistency is what matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

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Where should I start?

The path to intuitive eating isn’t linear. First, find a supportive community. Walking away from dieting and our shared body-hate culture feels risky.

“She’s obviously given up,” is a common critique on the aging, changing, shifting female body.

However, deciding to stand against high beauty standards placed on females doesn’t feel like giving up. It’s a big deal, a lot of work! It feels scary…like stepping away from safety…like letting go of a lifeline. By rejecting cultural beauty rules, we feel like we’re risking everything. 

Seek out others doing the same. Here are some of my favorite support groups:

Write down messages from family, friends, medical practitioners and the media that contribute to body shame and unhealthy dieting behaviors. You didn’t choose to receive these messages. Unfortunately, toxic programming isn’t easily turned off, but it can be turned down. By increasing awareness of this programming, you’ll discover your choice about how to respond.

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Find some time to sit down with your thoughts about what it means to pursue weight loss. You could use something as simple as a pro and con list. Here are some thoughts clients, friends and I have come up with: Pros of pursuing weight loss: Healthier, more accepted, safer, worthy of love and affection, deserving of respect, beautiful, more comfortable, clothes fit better and look better, prevent disease, improve health, reduce symptoms. Cons of pursuing weight loss: Hunger, constantly thinking about food, so much time spent preparing food and planning meals, isolation, high food cost, bingeing. What would happen if you spent your time pursuing what you really want minus the negative effects? Let’s say you desire to be more attractive to people. Is that what you want, for lots of people to find you attractive? If so, what would that be like? What if you explored that more deeply to see if what you really want is to be connected more authentically with people and to be cared for without emphasis on what you look like? That is totally possible. Maybe the real work is to, instead of trying to get people to like you through your body size, understand and like who you are, and let other people be attracted to who you REALLY are. What would be another way for you to pursue the thing that you think weight-loss would bring to you that wouldn’t include all those cons? This exercise is the beginning of a life-long unwinding of using your body or food to solve internal yearnings for more acceptance, safety, love, fulfillment, power, confidence and certainty. There is no shame in noticing what comes up for you and tremendous freedom in working towards developing yourself in more lasting ways. Thank you for this content and prompt @tracybrownrd ! Your training and supervision is changing my practice❤️💥

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Finally, it’s your right to ask God for anything. God’s abundant love can work miraculously in anyone’s life. If it feels like God’s not answering your prayers, ask yourself: what are you really after? By changing your appearance or shape, what do you hope to gain? Love? Connection? Safety? Health? Confidence? Acceptance?

These are things God wants for you in Him. God shows us that our needs can be met even when we do not meet the impossible standards of this world.

Liz Brinkman is based in Phoenix. She also treats clients virtually nationwide. Contact Liz for direct support or check out her blog for additional resources.