My eyes grew bigger, as I stared at the number on the scale.

I laughed. Really, the only appropriate reaction for the scenario.

Certainly the scale is broken. Because there’s no way I gained . . . 26 pounds. 26! To make it all much worse, the trainer who was weighing me at the gym in China, circled morbidly obese on her chart! Morbidly obese?! Only in Asia would they put me in that category. She started talking, and all I could imagine her saying was how she’d go home and tell all her friends and family about the fat American who pathetically joined the gym that day.

Five months before this rude-awakening, I moved across the globe to China. We didn’t have full-length mirrors, I never went shopping for clothes, and I didn’t own a scale. I knew my clothes were feeling tight, so I joined a local gym. And that’s where I stepped on the scale for the first time in five months.

I ran out of the gym that was inside a shopping mall, frantically searching for an electronic store that would have a scale.  I found a store with a row of scales all sitting out for people to test before buying. Stepping on the first one, the number came up 27 pounds heavier than I’d ever weighed. So I tried another. And another. I left the mall bewildered and it wasn’t until I arrived home that it finally sunk in. I’ve gained more than 25 pounds in just five months!

It was a rude awakening. I had to swear off rice and basically all Chinese food and learn to cook for myself (which is challenging with the limited Western food available).  I gritted my teeth, nearly exercised myself into the ground, ate entirely too many salads, had a lot of setbacks, but after six months . . . I had lost 30 pounds. Victory!

An eating plan and a rigorous exercise routine was important, but learning God’s plan for my body made all the difference.

One day on a run, I was listening to a sermon and heard John Piper say:

“You were given a visible body to make Christ visible.”

With that quote something clicked for me: our bodies are just on loan for a short time. We won’t be confined to imperfection forever. Not only were we created in the image of God, but we were given a visible body to do His work and breathe His healing on this side of eternity. In essence, to make Christ visible.

My perspective on dieting and exercise changed. Instead of taking off the weight to ‘attract a man’ or ‘not feel bigger than everyone else’, I started carrying out my weight loss plan with the mindset of taking care of my body because it’s a gift. My desire changed and now I eat healthy and exercise to use the body and gifts I have been given to bring life and beauty to barren places. In the way I’ve been gifted – created – in His image.

What if the next time you looked in the mirror, you didn’t focus on your big hips or let the cellulite on the back of your thighs dictate your worth – but thought, “how have I used my body to encourage and bring life to others today?” Maybe you need to eat more spinach and less dessert. Maybe you need to join Weight Watchers. And maybe you need to join an exercise class at the gym. But I find it makes all the difference in weight loss and healthy eating if we do it for a purpose greater than ourselves.

What if we strove towards a healthy weight and lifestyle, in order to be more effective in making Christ visible? 

Ruthie HeadshotRuthie Dean is a book marketer at Harper Collins Christian by day and a writer by night. She and her husband Michael call Nashville home. Their first book, Real Men Don't Text, will be in bookstores in 2013. Ruthie writes a relationship blog for women at www.ruthiedean.com