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A Last-Ditch Effort

Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating people with eating disorders. She's written the best-selling Lose It for Life with Steve Arterburn and Overweight Kids (both Integrity). TCW talked with her about her reluctance to recommend weight-loss surgery and her belief that dieting isn't about will power.

What's the first thing you tell Christians struggling with their weight?

Even though society often defines us by what we weigh, God doesn't. Nor does he condemn you for what you weigh. God accepts you, no matter what. He redeemed you; you're valued. You can't do anything, including lose weight, to earn more of his love. You've already got it all. Most of the secular weight-loss messages are about your efforts. And Christians absorb those messages. It's hard for people to understand that weight loss isn't about will power.

It's not about will power?

No. Weight loss is about surrender, not will power.

How do people "surrender" this area of their life?

Cultivating the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is important. And one of those fruits is self-control. The secular view of self-control is that you have to do more to control yourself. But Christians understand that in our weakness, God is strong. When we feel helpless to control ourselves, we can ask him for help. So I work a lot with people on intensifying their relationship with the Lord.

Self-discipline isn't just important when it comes to food. It's also vital for your prayer life and for consistent Bible study. I try to focus on this all-encompassing nature of self-discipline, but not in a condemning way. I constantly reiterate God's love for people who struggle with their weight, regardless of what they do, so that their motivation to develop self-control with food isn't born out of a sense of failure, but out of a sense of love.

How does this play out nutritionally?

The Bible is clear about moderation and balance. Anything in excess can be a problem. Christians need to recognize that food was created for our nourishment and that there's a healthy way of eating—eating to take care of the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There's a lot of information available today about what a healthy diet looks like, and it behooves us to pay attention to that.

Why do you advise against weight-loss surgery?

I think there are times when weight-loss surgery is appropriate. But it's important that patients realize there are no quick fixes. We're still trying to understand how the mechanism of hunger works, and there's a lot of interesting and exciting stuff going on in genetic research that may provide a "magic pill" for weight loss someday. But right now that pill doesn't exist.

Even if you have the surgery, you're going to have to make some significant lifestyle changes. After surgery, you still have to exercise. You still have to eat smaller amounts of food. So if you can do that on the front end, there's no need for surgery. I'd like to see people working with a team of people—a therapist, a registered dietician, an internist—for at least a year before considering surgery.

To learn more about Dr. Linda Mintle, visit www.drlindahelps.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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