Diet and Exercise: A Spiritual Perspective
(Published in Hattiesburg American September 24, 2011)
Recently some friends joked about Mississippi being ranked #1 in obesity for the seventh straight year. “Dynasty! We have built a dynasty here,” my friend mused. Many persons tend to relate this dubious title to diet, lack of exercise, and our warm and humid climate that seems to inhibit more physical outdoor activities. But is there more to it?
Controlling one’s weight today seems to focus almost entirely on the physical and material—what we eat and how much we eat, and what type of exercise we do or do not do. And if diet and exercise are not effective, surgery and other medical procedures may be a consideration. Yet some have pursued these approaches to reach what they consider their ideal weight and physique without success or only to find temporary results. Here are a few spiritual considerations that may be useful.
Exercise, viewed spiritual, may be viewed as the exercising of one’s God-given qualities such as kindness, love, generosity, and forgiveness. Timothy counseled “For bodily exercise profiteth little:”1 What does profit us is exercising right concepts, right actions, exercising love, and so forth, qualities we all innately possess. This God-given nourishment, is exercised simply through expressing it. Certainly, we do normal activities. But when we exercise only to achieve something physical, we’re ignoring our spiritual nature.2
The term body is related to the words embody and embodiment. What we embody in our consciousness matters. It can affect our well being. Christ makes all things new, states Paul in Corinthians. A Christly consciousness renovates our thinking, and that renovates our concept of ourselves and others. “The good we embody will heal whatever is amiss in our physical bodies.”3
Taking pleasure in overindulgence in anything really does not satisfy. It actually causes dissatisfaction and discontentment. Thinking we can fill a sense of an emptiness within by eating more food is folly and self deception. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, stated “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”4 Hungering and thirsting after righteousness can simply mean recognizing the demand to demonstrate and utilize what God has already given us of His ever-replenishing goodness and love, wisdom, and courage—to live life as his image and likeness as stated in Genesis I. This, in turn, enables us to express true righteousness—right thinking, right acting.5
Incorporating and practicing these and similar concepts in daily life, I dropped 30 pounds in a relatively short period of time without a change in diet or doing strenuous exercises. I have also increased my endurance and speed in running, which I did not take up until after age 60. As John says, “It is the spirit that quickenth; the flesh profiteth nothing;”6 Or as a more modern translation puts it, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”7
Living in Mississippi, the buckle of the Bible Belt, many of us are already literate in Scripture. We only have to have a little trust that these truths are indeed true and put them into practice. The results are fulfilling and so satisfying.
1 I Timothy 4:8
2 Eagar, J. (2011). Freedom from overeating. The Christian Science Sentinel, June 13, 2011.
3 Eddy, M.B. (1906) Science and health with key to the scriptures.
4 Matthew 5:6
5 Sandburg, K. A spiritual hunger. The Christian Science Journal, July, 2005.
6 John 6:63 (King James Version)
7 John 6:63 (English Standard Version)
Word count 521
Henry Teller, C.S.
is a Christian Science Practitioner
living in the Oak Grove area of Hattiesburg