Why you should ditch your special event diet plan


Whether you’re getting ready for a family vacation, a wedding, or a high school reunion, it’s tempting to try to get into shape specifically for these special events. But is it God-honoring? Or is it just deadline-driven vanity?

The frantic special-occasion diet

In the past, I have spent months in advance of special occasions convincing myself I should shed 10 pounds (or even 20 pounds) so I could look better for that day. Each time I created an unrealistic plan for calorie reduction and exercise with a big imaginary red X on the calendar as my goal.

Then, inevitably, life would get in the way. My restricted calorie plan would go out the window. Instead I would eat normally. I would eat some well-balanced meals. Also some less-healthy meals for convenience. I would enjoy ice cream in the evening with my husband. Etc. There was no calorie counting whatsoever - because it wasn’t practical on a day-to-day basis, and because I simply couldn’t meet the high standards I set for myself.

Then of course guilt and shame would ensue. Why didn’t I have the discipline to stick to my plan? I’m such a failure. But maybe there’s still time? Perhaps if I only eat salad for the next 7 days I will at least lose a little bit of weight before XYZ event? And that’s better than nothing, right?

But I realized that my approach wasn’t healthy to begin with. At the root of all of this was pure vanity. Pride. Idolatry of image.

Don’t excuse it. It’s sin.

All sin is inexcusable sin

I know some of you might be reading this thinking, “wow, this girl really over-thinks things. I just want to look good in my swimsuit on vacation. It’s not a big deal.” Please bear with me. There’s a sin pattern here that I think we often ignore because these types of behaviors are so “normal” in the world.

Let’s break it down.

Imagine you want to “look good” or “feel good” in your swimsuit/prom dress/family photos, etc. This gives you a sense of urgency to change your diet or exercise habits. You buckle down, follow a food plan, add a new daily workout, and keep your eyes on the supposed prize of being and feeling slimmer on that special day.

I would bet that many of you have done this before. I certainly have. But it’s full of sinful motivations! Even though these might seem like small sins, repeating these behaviors and thoughts can eat away at our understanding of who we are in Christ. These are the sin patterns I’ve noticed emerging in special event diets.

Your desire to look “good” or “better”" for a special occasion/vacation assumes that:

  1. Your physical appearance needs to be improved in order to be “good enough” at said event. This is a terrible assumption because it diagnoses you as inadequate right from the start. This assumption tells you that if you went to that high school reunion in your current state, you would be undesirable to the people around you. This assumptions tells you that your value is at 80% today, but that if you lose weight, your value will be at 100% tomorrow. It’s vain lies. Because your worth is found in Jesus, and that worth never changes.

    This statement points to our desire for approval from man. These diets are often driven by our desire for others to think well of us at events (red flag-we should be aiming only to please God).

  2. You only need to “be healthy” when you want to look good for an occasion. There are a number of problems with this assumption. Firstly, it claims that extreme diets and sudden increase to exercise is actually healthy for your body. (Unless your doctor tells you that you need sudden changes in order to preserve your body, this is not only untrue, it’s unsustainable.)

    The other issue with this statement is the assumption that weighing less is healthier. This is also not true. Your body can be healthy at many weights. And your swimsuit is not the measuring stick for that health.

How to honor God with your body before a special event

When preparing for a special event, you should aim to steward your body with the same God-honoring habits as you do any other day.

Leading up to your special occasion, don’t find a 30-day diet plan on Pinterest. Instead, pursue basic, healthy choices that you can adopt for your whole lifetime. I suggest the following small goals to start.

  • Eat to the glory of God (read more about what the Bible has to say about food)

  • Examine your heart and motivations when making changes to your exercise and eating habits

  • Eat two servings of veggies per day (one at lunch, one at supper) to help your body get the nutrients it needs

  • Aim to exercise a few days a week to keep your body strong

  • Make sure you get plenty of protein for good, lasting energy

  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night to start your days on a full tank

  • Drink plenty of water, because it’s good for you!

Remember that the ultimate goal is to steward your body in a way that honors God. This life is not about our own beauty or renown. We have been put on this earth to point to Christ. So let’s release our fixation with looking good on that special day, and instead aim to keep our bodies healthy for God’s glory.

Janelle HigdonComment