Are You a Body Change or Body Improvement Addict? [Podcast Transcript]

body image body image idolatry identity podcast transcripts self-esteem weight and dieting Jun 07, 2024

Title: Confession: I'm a Body Change Addict

Podcast Date: May 13, 2022

Listen to The Full Episode Here:



Today Heather digs into the concept of addiction--but not in a way you might expect. Heather isn't talking about drugs or alcohol or other things that you expect people to be addicted to. Instead, she talks about being addicted to body change-- chasing idols of body image and beauty through controlling and manipulating her body size and shape. Heather breaks down some amazing teaching from Dr. Tim Keller on the topic of addictions and idolatry and she applies this teaching to our issues with food and body. The sermon she refers to throughout today's episode is available here:

Here are some other topics talked about in today's episode, I'm a Body Change Addict:


  • How the prophet Jeremiah shows us Israel's idolatry problem and how this applies to us today!
  • The deep spiritual desire we have to find affirmation
  • What addiction really is and how it's a spiritual problem
  • The addiction cycle and what Jeremiah 2:27 teaches us about it
  • How we can see what our addictions are as we compare what bothers us versus what bothers are friends
  • How addictions can't be solved just through changing our bodies
  • How scolding and shaming never helps us change anything
  • What does work to break us out of addiction and sin
  • How our priorities reveal our treasures and our idols
  • Tim Keller's solution of thinking about these issues as issues between our bridegroom (Jesus) and his bride (us) and how this changes things
  • Why we all want to look flawless


Introduction: The “Good Girl’s Addiction”


Okay, friend. Today's show, I really am trying to figure out how to do this in a way that pays the utmost respect and homage to my source, which is a sermon by Tim Keller. I do not want to just plagiarize that sermon. You should go listen to that sermon. I've listened to it on YouTube, I think. I think it's available on the podcast too, but it's super easy to find on YouTube. Just look for Tim Keller, how sin makes us addicts, because I will not do it justice. He did an incredible job breaking down these concepts.



But today, friend, because I mentioned that word addiction so many times in my coaching call, And because that may have felt really awkward or uncomfortable to some of you, maybe some of you who have traveled the road of addiction, of course, you may get it even more than some who are just, like, I'm not an addict. I don't know what you're talking about. There's nothing wrong with being on diets all the time or I'm not overly attached to changing my body. How is that an addiction? 


I call it, in that episode that we did, I call it the “good girl's addiction”. Right? And Keller does a masterful job of talking about what the addiction really is and why we get caught up in it. It's just so good. So today, what I'm gonna do is I'm going to tell you about this sermon that he delivered and then kind of weave in concepts about body image and body image idolatry that I talk about on the show all the time. 


Defining Idolatry

So Keller's passage for this sermon is Jeremiah 2, and he's in verses 1 through 8 (, and then he visits the end of that chapter. And this passage is really about the prophet Jeremiah telling Israel how they have forsaken the Lord.



Right? And we've watched Israel do this, like, through the Old Testament over and over again. Right? You know, it's easy for us to sit here and say, oh, the stupid Israelites, always chasing idols. You know, they did that golden calf thing with Moses, and why can't they just follow God? What is so hard about this? And then you hear Keller break this down, and you're like, oh my goodness. I struggle just as much as the Israelites. 


So the prophet Jeremiah is trying to give the Israelites a real picture of what their problem is and why they keep chasing idols and really of what they are doing to him, to God. Of how they are forsaking him as no longer their first love; how, essentially, they're cheating on him. So it's funny… when I used to speak at groups, MOPS groups and other groups, I would always ask the question, you know what's it called when you look to something else for your salvation that's not Jesus? And, normally, people would kinda say “idolatry” in a muffled way, if they got that answer at all. Frankly, not everyone did. A lot of groups were like, “we don't know”, because we just don't talk about idolatry that much.


Is Adultery Also Idolatry?


But if they did say idolatry, I would make a little joke and I would say, yes. Idolatry, not adultery. Those are 2 different things. But in this passage, Keller makes the point that, no, they're actually not 2 different things. Adultery is the best picture of what happens when we get caught up in idolatry. And so let me just read this passage for you. Jeremiah 2 and the first couple of verses here, and then I'll go to the end. 


“But the word of the Lord came to me saying, go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, thus says the Lord. I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt. Disaster came upon them, declares the Lord. Hear the word of the Lord, o House of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus the Lord says, what wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me and went after worthlessness and became worthless? They did not say, where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through where no man dwells. And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.”



I'll stop right there. So Keller talks about how Israel had it good. Right? God took care of them. He took them out of slavery in Egypt. And, okay, yeah, I'm sure it wasn't easy to travel through the wilderness for 40 years, but God took care of them every step of the way. And the land that he led them into was a good land, a land of milk and honey. Right? And so God's kinda saying, “did I do something wrong here? Like, why are you straying from me? Like, why are you going a different direction here? Like, why are you cheating on me, essentially?” And so that's interesting, and Keller goes into this in a much deeper way, so go listen to that sermon and hear how he talks about it.



You probably don't want your kids around, honestly, when you're listening to this one. Because Keller talks about the very real visual graphic image through this passage. He talks later about, like, a donkey in heat. Okay? How, like, Israel is kind of like this wild animal just looking for some satisfaction. And so how Keller classifies this is as the dynamics of spiritual attraction. So, essentially, what he's saying is that we all have this way we were wired. Right? We're wired to be attracted to the opposite sex because we have this desire to reproduce ourselves. We know we are incomplete and biologically speaking, we want to reproduce something to give us some meaning. Now, these are all Keller's words.


Our Deep Spiritual Desires


None of this is original thought here. I wanna be clear about where this is coming from. But what Keller says is deep within our soul is a spiritual desire that's even deeper than sexual attraction. And so here's what he says. He says, you cannot produce your own meaning in life. You cannot produce your own worth. You cannot produce your own security. And so deep within us, we have these drives.



And, again, he makes the illustration that they're like a sexual drive. We have these drives to produce meaning, to produce worth, to produce security. And we are, as Keller says, we are just as powerless to create those things, to produce those things on our own as we are powerless to reproduce on our own. And Keller says, and I thought this is a perfect illustration for what we talk about here. He says, you can't just say, “I like me”, and that's enough. Or “I make my own happiness”, and that's enough, because it ultimately doesn't answer that drive for meaning. There has to be something else besides you that is your drive, your pursuit, your goal. Your condition to produce meaning, worth, and security has to be outside of you. And so Keller says that, spiritually speaking, if it's not God in whose arms we're resting, if it's not God that we're looking to to produce that meaning, that worth, and that security, then we're kind of in the arms of another lover.

In the Arms of Another Lover


We are finding a source of meaning somewhere. We're finding a source of security somewhere. We're finding a source of affirmation somewhere. And if it's not God, then we've got an adultery issue and likely an idolatry issue. 


So Jeremiah is illustrating how if you've not given yourself to God, if you're not in the arms of God, if God is not where you're finding your meaning, your security, your affirmation, then you are in some sort of idolatrous situation, or excuse me, adulteress situation, not idolatrous, but adulteress situation, that is very much the same as if you were in bed with someone that is not your spouse. It is the same sort of “I'm cheating on God” thing. Okay.

Body Image Idolatry & Addiction

The Addiction Cycle: Step 1, Promoting Good Things in Unhealthy Ways


So now to addiction. So Keller then goes on to explain the dynamics of spiritual addiction and something he calls “the addiction cycle”. And he starts by using verse 27 of Jeremiah 2, and I'll read that for you here. “So he says, who says to a tree, you are my father, and to a stone, you gave me birth. For they have turned their back to me and not their face. But in the time of their trouble, they say, arise and save us. But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise if they can save you in your time of trouble. For as many as your cities are your gods, oh Judah. Why do you contend with me? You have all transgressed against me, declares the Lord.”



So how Keller explains this, and I would have never read it this way, my friend. So, again, not original thoughts. This is all Tim Keller's content. Go listen to his sermon. But what Keller explains is that God is pointing out, or Jeremiah, you know, God's words through the book of Jeremiah, through the prophet Jeremiah… Jeremiah is saying that in our hearts, when we become addicted, when we get stuck in this addiction cycle, we promote something to a place of greater importance. So the wood saying to the wood, you are my father and the stone you gave me birth.



It's like saying that wood is elevated to an important position, a position where, you know, it can save me or help me or whatever. Right? Stone, you gave me birth. It's like saying, stone is my mother. Wood is my father. And Keller makes the point that there's nothing sinful about wood. Right? There's nothing sinful about stone. So when we become addicts or stuck in this addiction cycle, a lot of times it's not because of a sin that we've promoted. It's actually good things, even healthy desires that we have promoted to a place of ultimate importance.



Right? And so what Keller explains is that if you don't have intimacy with God, then you have intimacy with something or someone else, like the wood, like the stone. These are false gods. They are created things, like Romans 1 talks about it. Created things that we have, maybe created in a different way in our hearts, but ultimately have promoted to a top place in our life. And this is one of the characteristics of these things is when we say, like, this defines me, this makes me. Without this, I am nothing. And so, Keller's step 1 in the addiction cycle is you take something good and you promote it. Without you, I have nothing.

My Body Is My Identity


And so, as I coach women and work with women around body image issues, a lot of times, there is a real fear in giving up dieting or wellness habits. Right? And, you know, health. And they feel like they go to black and white thinking. Right? Like, oh, you want me to be an unhealthy fat slob. It's like, no, no, no. That is not the opposite of the body and beauty image idol.



The opposite of the idol is not being a slob and not taking care of yourself and not caring about your health. That's black and white thinking. The problem is when we say “without my thin body, I have nothing. If I can't weigh this amount, if I can't look like this, I am nothing. This defines me.” I've worked with so many women who have told me “my problem is I was always the thin one, and then I hit menopause. And I'm not the thin one anymore, and I don't have an identity anymore.” Right? It's a real thing.



Or some of you, maybe it's a different kind of beauty. You know, you felt like your pretty face was what defined you, and you were able to be so proud of the beauty you had. And then aging happened. And you don't feel like you have that anymore. These are signs of idolatry, but also signs of addiction. Right? 


The Addiction Cycle: Step 2, Running Through the Desert

So then as Keller explains the second step in addiction, he goes back to verses Jeremiah 2 verses, like, 24-25, where it talks about being the wild donkey, which I mentioned before, sniffing the wind at mating time. That is in the Bible, my friends. It says, “who can restrain her lust? Those who desire her don't need to search, for she goes running to them.”



And then verse 25 says, “when will you stop running? When will you stop panting after other gods? But you say, save your breath. I'm in love with these foreign gods and I can't stop loving them now.” 


So Keller breaks this down as we are literally unrestrained in our addiction when we want these things that define us, these things that make us, these idols. Right? And, again, they're not sins. They're good things. But when we have to have this good thing and nothing can stop us, we must have it. It becomes this unrestrained thing. And, like, verse 25 says, we're, like, running through a desert until our shoes wear out.



Like, that's how vigorously we are chasing this thing. We are running through a desert thirsty. Our throat is dry because I must have it. I must, must, must have it. And Keller makes the point that whenever there's a word "must”, then it's kind of an indication that God's probably not the center of your life, but that thing you “must have” has become the center. And so Keller even talks about how it might be beauty. It might be achievement. It might be money. It might be comfort. It could be anything. 


My Body is My Meaning and Worth


But Keller says that when you say “you are my meaning, by achieving you, I have worth. If I have you, I can have my worth and my meaning and my affirmation.” Those are all signs that this is something that you are addicted to. So when I talk about my addiction in the podcast episode, my intuitive eating coaching call, if you haven't listened podcast episode, my intuitive eating coaching call, if you haven't listened yet, what I'm talking about is how for so much of my life, I chased until my feet were bare and my throat was dry. I ran through that desert saying “I must change my body. I must weigh this amount. I must look like this.”



It was my idol, but it was also my addiction because I truly believed that with the right body, I would have the affirmation. With the “right body” I would have the meaning. I would have the purpose. I would have everything that I ever dreamed I would have. And so Keller then goes on to say how the best way to tell if you are addicted is not when things are going well, but when you are in trouble, which I think is fascinating for our context. Right? Because a lot of times, I've had this conversation with many people, that my best experiences in coaching are with women over the age of 35, often well over the age of 35. Because I think if beauty comes easier to you… I'm not gonna say easy to you, because even really beautiful women like models struggle in this arena.



But I do think if it comes a little easier to you, it's hard to tell that it's become an addiction or a problem until it is threatened. And so often it's threatened by, maybe weight gain during pregnancy or maybe aging, or maybe changing hormones as you get close to menopause, or maybe it's just been threatened by stress, and you've gained weight and lost whatever beauty body thing you thought you had. And then you come to the point where you're like, “oh, no. I must get that back!” And my best experiences in coaching are with women who have had that, “oh, no. I must get that back!” feeling for many years and are finally to the end of the rope realizing that it's not going to come back; that it is an addiction, and that it can't be solved through just changing their body. And so when I say I'm an addict, I'm saying that this is my heart's addiction. This is where I go.

Different Hearts, Different Idols


And it's interesting. Keller talks about how, like, you can have a female friend, and maybe she has some problem at work, some, like, job failure kind of thing. Maybe she loses her job and how that can really devastate her. But for you, you could go through the exact same thing and, kinda, be, like, well, yeah, it was hard, but not that big of a deal. It doesn't crush you. Whereas, for you, you could have a relationship thing go wrong and feel crushed by it. Whereas your friend might be, like, no big deal. You know, I'll just move on.



And what that conversation, and we've all had it, reveals is where we are stuck in idolatry. I've said this many times in coaching calls, that I think I may have saved on the show too. But it's funny, a lot of us aren't, like, hung up on money in the same way we're hung up on beauty. Like, our bank accounts could take a big hit, and we would certainly feel it, and it would hurt. Right? And we'd be sad and upset about it. But it may not feel the same as, let's say, I don't know, being burned in a fire or being put, you know, in a bed because of some serious illness and gaining, you know, a 100 pounds through all that. Right? Those things sound a whole lot scarier just to me, personally, than having my bank account drained. And that reveals my heart.



That shows you what's in my heart, what I am relying on, what I trust in. But then Keller goes on to say, and this is straight from the text in Jeremiah 2. God speaks through Jeremiah. Jeremiah is like, listen, people. Like, can this wood and stone save you? Right? Like, all of these things that we think can save us, these things we've built our lives upon. And oh my friends, for those of you who've built your lives upon being the one who's always healthy, being the one who has a good body, being the one who's always the perfect eater, these are not things to build our lives upon. There's nothing necessarily wrong with these things. But when we've put these things in a position in our life where we feel like they are the foundation of our life, where without them we are worthless or feel worthless, then we are stuck in the addiction.

Salvation From Our Idolatry & Addictions: Do We Just Want an “After Picture”?


And so Keller then transitions to and this is his language, like, how do we get out of bed with these other lovers? Right? Because Keller is using this sexual adultery kind of language. And Keller says that all of our problems come from this, basically, inherent problem of wanting to be with these other lovers whom we believe can save us. Right? And even though Jeremiah tells us (God tells us through Jeremiah), no - they can't do diddly squat for you! We still kinda hold on to the hope that maybe they can. Right? 


I love to talk about before and after pictures because they show us such a clear picture of false salvation. The before is the person in a sort of hell. Right? Because they don't look like culture's standard of beauty. And the after is the person in a new kind of salvation where they match what our culture tells us is healthy and beautiful and attractive and appealing and worthy of love. Right? And we buy into that before and after story because we want salvation. Our hearts want to go from worthless to worthy, from meaningless to meaningful. But a diet, a body transformation, none of these things can actually save us. 


Litmus Tests For Finding Our Idols: Two Questions to Ask

And so Keller talks about whenever you feel an inordinate amount of fear or guilt around something? Then perhaps, that is your litmus test for finding things in your life that you have turned into idols. Or as Keller says, like, finding without finding out what you are in bed with, finding your, he uses the term, “fatal attractions”. What are these idols that you are running through the desert after? And then he asked the question, and he gives these actually 2 questions as another litmus test for your idols. What is there that I feel like I've got to have or I'm dead? Okay.



So some of you are like, I've got to have my diets. I've got to have my wellness plan. I've got to have my clean eating. I've got to have my exercise or my certain amount of cardio every week, or I've got to have my scale, or I've got to have my food measuring. I've got to have my plan. What do I have in my life that I feel like without it, I'm dead or insecure or uncertain or just not okay? And then the second question is, what is functioning more as my real savior than Jesus? Ouch. That question hurts, but I love the way he phrased it. Because what do I really believe will save me? I know, friends, I really believed what would save me was having an after picture.



I really believed what would save me was just the perfect makeover, losing the weight, getting the clothes, getting the look. I thought that would save me. I functioned as if the next diet, the next fitness program would save me. And Jesus is saying, I already did that for you, Heather. And so, Ben Keller kind of gives a prescription, like, okay. So you've got these other lovers. You've got these fatal attractions. What do you do to overcome the fatal attractions? And the first suggestion he gives is brilliant.

The Nitty Gritty: What is Sin?


Okay, I've already disclosed that I think this whole sermon is brilliant. So go listen to it! But his first suggestion is to, and this is a direct quote from him, “personalize your understanding of sin”. And by that he means that you have to understand that sin isn't just about breaking God's law, it's about breaking God's heart. Instead of, and these are some of my words, I'm kind of giving you my version of it, but instead of picturing God as, like, this really distant judge with a big gavel, and he's just, like, waiting for you to mess up so he can, like, put the hammer down and say, you send. Boom.



Picture him as your husband, if you're married, your boyfriend, picture him as a lover whom you have jilted. Because sin isn't just about breaking the law of God, sin is about breaking the heart of God. 


And Keller goes on to say that those who have walked through divorce understand this better than anyone else on the planet. Just how hard it is to feel that kind of dissolution of a marriage, that kind of interruption in what's supposed to be intimacy is the same feeling that God has when we chase these idols, when we chase these other lovers. 


Scolding Sin Doesn’t Change It

But he doesn't stop there. He also talks about how when we think about sinning as just, like, we broke God's rule, you know, another one of God's laws broken, how what that leads to is scolding. And I thought this was so brilliant, because he talks about how no one stops sinning because they were scolded. It kinda makes me think about, I don't know, just the church, the modern church through, you know, maybe the last 50, 100 years, you know, the “don't do that”. The “shame on you”. You know? Oh, “don't break God's law.” Like, that kind of tone is scolding. 


And he talks about how even for ourselves personally, if we think about sin that way and we scold ourselves, “oh, I shouldn't have”, or you know, well, “it’s gluttony”. You know, I'm opening a can of worms here because I don't believe that gluttony is really just about overeating food. Okay. So let me lay that out there first. I need to do a whole show on gluttony at some point soon.



Right? Because gluttony is not what I think most old fashioned Baptist preachers, who probably had an extra 100 pounds to lose, told us that gluttony was. Right? Gluttony is not just about eating too much at the buffet. Gluttony is really a heart issue. It's thinking about food too much. It's dwelling on food too much. It's making food an idol in your life. It's not really about consumption. And if you have been a restricted eater for a long period of time, maybe decades, there’s going to be a period where you’re going to have to eat to catch up your body, and you're going to feel like you are in gluttony, and that is not gluttony.



Okay? So I don't wanna get too far off track, but I do wanna be clear about that. But he talks about how if you scold yourself for a sin, it doesn't actually make you want to stop sinning. When you're, like, “oh, shoot. I shouldn't have done that again. Bad me. Bad me. I shouldn't have done that again.” It actually creates a, like, opposite response where you're like, “oh, who cares? I've already messed up. I'm gonna just do it again.”



Right? And he talks about scolding doesn't work with other people either. Right? The more you scold, the chances are the more they're gonna run to that sin that you're scolding them for. And so if we think about if we personalize our understanding of sin, as Keller says, and make this real to our relationship with God that we are breaking his heart when we kinda believe that doing OPTAVIA will save me more than Jesus already has, that breaks God's heart. 


Now, again, don't be black and white thinking on me here, my friends. Okay? Because the point isn't that pursuing health or trying to, you know, exercise and take care of your body, those things aren't bad. But if those things are top of your priority list, if you're putting all your money, time, thought, and effort into these things, then you have made them an idol, and you're kind of in a love affair. And your bridegroom, Jesus, is saying, please, come back to me.

Melting Our Hearts to Fix Them


And his ultimate point in this section is that scolding doesn't change a heart. Scolding for sin doesn't change it. So if you want to fix your idol problem, you can't scold yourself. Shame on you for having an idol. Like, that's not gonna work. Instead, what has to happen is our hearts have to be melted. It's ironic, right, that melted language because melted is how that golden calf was made. Right? They all took their jewelry and melted it down to make that golden calf in Exodus.



But God's solution to our idolatry problem is melting our hearts. So Keller goes into one final illustration, and he talks about how there's never been an imperfect bride. And this is from the end of that chapter in Jeremiah. But the end of that chapter talks about bridal ornaments and the bride presenting herself as flawless. And Keller's like, there's never an imperfect bride. Like, he talks about all the many people he's married and how no one has ever gotten up to, you know, the altar and then, like, whoops, I forgot to put my makeup on or whoops, I forgot to put my wedding dress on. Right? 


And how all these ways that we try to adorn ourselves, like, on our wedding day is because we are trying to look flawless. We are trying to present ourselves as a perfect bride. But Keller also talks about how in a lot of ways these ornaments are us trying to cover ourselves. Right? No. None of us are perfect. Right? None of us are actually perfect brides. And so we use the makeup, and the dress, and the jewelry, and all of those things to try to present ourselves as perfect while covering ourselves.

We Don’t Have to Cover Ourselves, God Has Covered Us


And so his point here is that we are never going to make ourselves flawless. It makes me think of the Mercy Me song, flawless. Alright. If you've not heard that, check it out. But there's nothing we can do to make ourselves flawless. There's nothing we can really do to cover ourselves to actually fool him and make him think that we're already perfect. 


But the amazing thing is that God can see us as flawless because of what Jesus has done for us. We can be free from trying to cover ourselves through these extra gods, these idols, these adulterers lovers that we chase through the god of skinniness or the god of the next diet or the god of exercise or the god of perfect body or the god of beauty. Right? Or the god of success. Because for some of us, our body image issues are really just about feeling successful in that arena because we like to be successful in everything we do. Right? 


But Keller is saying, we can free ourselves from trying to find our own cover because God has already done the work for us. So when we look in the mirror, we don't have to try to see ourselves as perfect because of the filter of these gods. We can see ourselves as perfect and accepted and worthy and loved and have a meaningful life because of what Jesus has done for us. Friends, one more time, go listen to this sermon. It might change your life. And I hope something in today's episode has helped you.


Freedom is a Path, Not a Plan


I don't want you to feel guilt and shame and scolded every time I talk about the body image idol. Right? I love how Keller points that out. But we do have to recognize the seriousness of its presence in our lives and how it can so easily lead us to an addiction. An addiction that is very much the same as any other kind of addiction we would talk about in culture. And for me, that addiction is I secretly go back to my ways of “I want to control my body. I want to manipulate my body. I want my body to look a certain way,” and it's an addiction. I have to lay down constantly. I have to confess to Jesus. Oh, I'm tempted to follow that other lover again. I'm tempted to bow to that idol. Help me, God. Help me see the truth. Help me defeat the lies. And so if that's where you're at today, friend, know you're not alone.


Don’t Walk the Path Alone


It's a process. Freedom is a path, not a plan that's one and done. And if you feel really stuck here today, friend, set up a time. Let's talk. Set up a coaching session this summer. Hey. I don't have any minimum number of sessions that I like to do when I do 1 on 1 coaching. But, generally, I think about 4 is a good number to plan on.



Some will need many more, and some might be okay after 2. But think about grabbing some coaching sessions with me, and let me walk with you through this. Maybe you've got idols that you're not even seeing, and you're just like, okay, I'm hearing all this, but I don't even know where to start. Let's talk. I hope something in today's episode has helped you, my friend, stop comparing and start living. Bye bye. 

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