The Obesity Epidemic and Our Souls

As a health sciences major, I hear about the prevalence of obesity in our culture quite frequently class to class. “How is it,” it is so often proposed, “that such a thing has come about so quickly?”

Though correlation does not imply causation, there are many things put forth as to the cause – primarily, the advent of idle leisure (sitting and watching a screen, whether the television or the computer), as well as the popularization of fast food over the traditional home-cooked meal.

From personal experience, I would propose that a major factor has to be the soft drink consumption. The technological inventions – television, computers, etc – as well as the fast food options have come about in other cultures, world wide. But the obesity problem, I believe, has been demonstrated as much higher than in other nations. Part of this could be the expendable wealth in our nation, but if you look at other nations that are even a part of the Western world (France comes to mind), it has not been as big of a problem there (to my knowledge.)

So what is it?

Talk to anyone who goes to Europe about not only the portion sizes, but particularly the drink servings.

Here we consume coffee after calorie-laden coffee, and then wash it down with a soda, and juice, and sports drink, etc.

We stuff ourselves silly with these beverages that contain the amount of calories of a small meal, but then we also eat a meal on top of that!

I’ve had some personal experience with this idea. I am about 5’7″, but as a sophomore in High School, I weighed nearly 200 lbs. That’s not overly huge, but far above healthy! I decided simply to cut out my intake of calorie-containing beverages – sodas, juices, etc. I began to drink more water. I did not change my diet in any other way, or my activity level. The only change I made was that I began drinking more water, and did not drink sodas or juices anymore.

The results were astounding. Over the period of one Summer vacation, between Sophomore and Junior year of HS, I lost over 20 lbs. That’s 10% of my body weight. My activity level had not increased – if anything, it dropped, as most of my Summer was spent at a desk, working on a computer. My diet was not improved – if anything, it was worsened, as I was not eating the school lunches with their fruit and vegetable inclusions, but was instead eating a diet almost solely of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and profuse amounts of ketchup.

But I lost over 20 lbs.

From drinking water instead of juice or soda.

And this is including my Sunday treat of a 1 liter chocolate milk.

So, I would say, with evidence like that in hand, my beverage theory holds at least some ground.

Take that into consideration for an illustration I will be presenting later.

Secondly, I would like to propose one other problem behind the obesity issue – not even just obesity, but general lack of health. It is an issue of good intentions lacking proper education.

The example is the behavior of ordering a salad as an attempt to eat healthier.

I went to the McDonald’s website and pulled up their nutrition information.

A quarter pounder has 410 calories. A Big Mac, 540. The Angus Bacon & Cheese, a whopping 790!
Oh boy. So let’s look at our healthier options. Let’s get a salad, or a yoghurt and granola, or something like that.

So, we’ve got our salads… Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken… 430 calories… “Not bad,” you might say. Well, it’s already more than a quarter pounder… but, oh, did I mention that’s just the salad? Let’s stick some dressing on there. The Southwest dressing is another 100 calories. 530 calories in the salad with dressing. That’s practically your Big Mac’s 540 calories!

Throw in a large coke (310 calories)  and a SMALL fry (230 calories) and you have half of your recommended daily intake in one meal.

But look at that. 300 calories in that coke. that’s over 15% of your recommended intake in one drink! (numbers taken from McDonald’s website)

The bottom line: We think we’re making the right choice, the “healthy” choice, but we’re really just getting something just as bad for us in a package that makes us feel like we’re being healthy.

So where am I going with this?

What about that “Our Souls…” part of the title?

Here’s the thing.

Corey Russell, in a teaching released on his “Eyes Opened” cd, has a quote that I will employ here:

Psalm 119:36-37 “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things.” Some of us are so stuffed on so many PG movies, we have no appetite for real pleasure; so many are so stuffed on so many good things, we have no appetite for real things!

He goes on to describe, specifically, the problem with pornography, the prevalence of pornography in our nation… and then

It’s as much in the church, it’s not like it’s just them out there, beloved, it’s us in here.

“Well, brother, I don’t deal with that.”

We’re so jaded by all the sitcoms that have sex streaming through them, that our eyes are so defiled, that we don’t even recognize a small affair here, a small fornication here, a small homosexual relationship here… we’re getting our senses dulled! Psalm 13 “enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” Beloved, the church, right now, is sleeping a sleep of death. Our faculties are shot, our prophetic senses are shot, the spirit of revelation is absent in the land, and we don’t know any different! And I’m here to sound an alarm, it’s time that we begin to know something different, because if we don’t see, we die. Without vision, you perish, amen? You don’t get vision, you die. Once the gates are shut, you die. That’s why the all-out fight  says I’m fighting for my eyes – Psalm 119 “Open my eyes, that I might see wondrous things from Your law.”

Wonder, restored to the church! Eyes opened… and we declare an all out assault against the power of immorality – this is the spirit of Jezebel that is teaching servants and seducing servants into sexual immorality. It’s the spirit of Jezebel that waters everything down and then begins to dull our senses to the power of immorality!

Call a generation to something higher!

Or, another way scripture puts it, in 1 Corinthians 10, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

We might be freed by the grace of God to participate in some things, but that does not mean it is the best thing. As Corey put it – don’t stuff yourself on so many “good” things that you lose your appetite for the best!

So how does this relate to the McDonald’s stuff and the soda stuff?

1) When we fill ourselves with that which is impure, we bloat ourselves and ruin the ability to live a thriving life. We quench life and ruin overall satisfaction by taking what instantly gratifies – we sell out overall health for the sake of quick fixes. Instead of longing for the pure water, that which really satisfies our thirst, we fill ourselves on tainted things, things which please, which satisfy for a little while, but in the end create a more intense craving and actually kill us. When we drink a soda or juice, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it has gotten out of control. It’s ruinous to our health. To satisfy thirst, what is more perfectly engineered than pure water? But we fill ourselves on sodas instead. We take in what was not needed. We stuff ourselves. It ruins our ability to run.

2) We think we’re doing ourselves a favor by choosing “healthier” things, when in reality, they are just as bad for us. A brilliant example I read recently was put forth by Zack Hensley;

We have seen churches protest outside of TV studios when Ellen DeGeneres “came out” on her show Ellen, then changed the channel over to Friends and had little to say about the casual sexual immorality being promoted there every week. Church goers get mad about cursing in their christian music but don’t care about it in their movie watching habits.

We pat ourselves on the back because we refuse to allow certain things that cross a certain line in the movies we watch. We censor the gratuitous violence, the really dirty sex scenes, the movies that use really really vulgar language a LOT, the really obviously bad stuff… whatever your personal standard may be…

But what is the line, really? Are you eating a salad with the dressing and patting yourself for eating healthy and passing on the Big Mac? Are you deceiving yourself?

I know I had been deceiving myself.

I love the quote from John Piper’s blog

“Have you viewed sexually explicit material?” is a much better question than “Have you looked at pornography?” because I can click on sexually provocative news stories or click on links that I know will have scantily-clad chicas on them and still pat myself on the back at the end of the week, saying, “I didn’t look at pornography!” Uh-huh. The deceitfulness of sin at work.

Friend, I only speak about this comparison – this idea that we can think “as long as I haven’t crossed this particular line… I’m doing ok.” This idea of ignoring the sin in our lives because we didn’t commit certain sins… The idea that we’re  feasting on certain things as long as they’re not certain cardinal sins, as long as it’s not too filthy, as long as it’s not over this or that line… to think we’re good enough to take in any sin and not be defiled! Oh, I know I fell for such a trap, and it ruined me for years.

The more I cut out, the more I realize the subtle manifestation of every little thing I put in. Every bit of content I take in manifests itself in my life – in my thoughts, my emotions, my dreams, my actions. If I do not consciously act upon it, it comes up in my dreams. It alters the way I live my life. This has become so evident when I decided to cut out movies, television, secular music, and music that is not founded in Scripture.

This is not me trying to promote that I am somehow “holier than thou,” no, it’s far from that, it’s me saying that I’ve been wretched and I learned that it was a great mistake to think myself strong enough to stand in the midst of the onslaught of the enemy and not be wounded! Even a soldier in full armor will be harmed if he is foolish in battle, placing himself in harm’s way, in the midst of a barrage of arrows intended to strike and kill!

Because, friends, we’re in a war, and our enemy hates us and will stop at nothing to have us fall into complacency and be foolish in battle. He would love for us to be struck down in such a manner. Yes, we stand clothed in the armor of the Lord, and we must put it on daily, but armor is not guarantee of immunity if one is being reckless.

I invite you all to consider this article by Seth Yates, a worship musician at International House of Prayer. Also consider the movies, television, music, books, etc that you are reading. Consider that which you are feeding  your soul upon.

If nothing else, apply the standard “could I watch this movie/listen to this song in church,” if nothing else apply such a standard to that which you take in. I would suggest an even better one, of “If I was watching this/listening to this in my time with the Lord, would it bring me into His presence or remove me from it?” Because we entertain His presence continually, and I do believe it is a 24/7 thing to consider what attracts or detracts the presence of Jesus.

I will leave you with one final story that I am telling from memory. There was a missionary from my church in a foreign country. He hadn’t had much to do with media or the like, as he was doing missions work and spending his time with the people. As I was told the story, he recounts being in a shop in the country he was in, and the shop had a television on playing a clip from one of the “Die Hard” movies. He stopped for a moment to watch the movie, and could physically feel the presence of the Lord leave him as he viewed it. It was a movie he would have watched without second thought, but he had been away from media for so long that he had gained sensitivity for what grieves the Holy Spirit…

I know something I began to ask myself on this journey was whether what I was taking in would grieve the Holy Spirit. Consider this. Take it to heart, it is never a regrettable decision to press in to the Lord!

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. awesome revelations there Sierra. I think you might be onto something about the soft drink portion sizes. I had a brief layover in LA once and my friend took me to starbucks, I was amazed at how huge those cups of coffee are compared to the size you would get for the same price in Australia.

    Also glad to hear your getting into those Corey Russell CD’s, they changed my life. Im sick of setting my eyes on worthless things.

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