How’d you do? Did you maintain your weight during the holidays? Or perhaps you’re like most Americans who’s number one goal this year is to lose weight. Before you hit the treadmill or eat that cottage cheese, you might want to weigh your heart.
In my last Thin Within blog, I challenged myself to avoid using the holidays as an excuse to binge. For the most part, I behaved myself. I managed to get through December with minimum damage. And I blame those two pounds on the Almond Joys that Santa slipped into my stocking.
Then our family went to Hawaii for a week-long vacation and my resolve vanished like smoke up a chimney. Christmas cookies didn’t tempt me like the smorgasbord of food on the tropical island. Sushi, Japanese noodles, grilled Salmon, pineapples, coconut. My appetite (and waist line) grew larger with each meal.
Barb Raveling’s app, “I Deserve A Doughnut,” would mysteriously appear on my phone like a wagging finger. Talk about a killjoy. Who needed self discipline and the means to escape temptation while I was munching in paradise? Then again, what’s the point of having her app if I refuse to use it when I need it most?
My muumuu disguised the consequences of eating more than normal. Plus, I’d had the foresight to wear stretch pants while I traveled on the plane. When I returned home, the bathroom scales confirmed what my heart feared. I’d gained substantial weight. No more skinny jeans.
Now, I don’t expect sympathy from readers. Sunbathing in Hawaii during winter might even invite contempt. But I wanted to share my recent failure which led to this eye-opening lesson: my heart’s best intention is no match when faced with Something I Really Want.
And that desire to have what I wanted—regardless of the consequences—weighed heavily on my heart when I read, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).
When I’m obsessed with my body or food such as…
Counting calories—or not—because I’m on vacation.
Worrying about my weight because I don’t want to look “fat” in a thin-conscious culture.
Justifying my eating habits when I’m stressed or my ego’s bruised.
Searching “Yelp” for the best place to eat.
Resolving—again—to eat healthy and exercise this year.
When I focus on those things, I tend to forget that God isn’t concerned with my outward appearance. He weighs the heart which includes my thoughts, intentions, and attitudes.
Yes, I need to respect my body which “is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). But I can’t discount my heart because the Bible says:
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (Matthew 15:19)
Thankfully, when I put my faith in Christ, His blood (not my good behavior) made my heart righteous. However, if I want a healthy heartthat wants what God wants, thenmeeting with Himmust be a priority.
I realize “being still” may seem as difficult as doing tummy crunches, but spending time with the Lord—in His Word and prayer—is how the Spirit of God softens, nourishes, and speaks to the heart. And I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution than asking God to weigh my heart and change me from the inside out.
Maintaining my weight during the holidays may be tougher than I imagined. This past weekend, my mouth watered as I stood in a food truck line, staring at giant corn dogs that rotated on an aluminum grill behind a greasy window. Behind me, the scent of caramel popcorn lured my nostrils. Next to me, a woman stood by her cart and hollered, “Don’t forget your hot chocolate with whipped cream.”
I turned to my son. “Do you want a corn dog?”
“No,” he said. “I’m not hungry.”
“Neither am I,” I groaned, stepping out of line. “What was I thinking? I don’t even eat corn dogs?”
A week earlier, I’d been so pleased with myself because I’d controlled my appetite—and portion sizes—at our family’s Thanksgiving feast. Thanks to Thin Within, I had a new attitude. Who knew you could be around that much food and leave the table without feeling stuffed as the turkey. But if pride comes before the fall, I was about to eat some humble pie.
Our church hosted a women’s Christmas event. Mindful of Thin Within principles, I went there with an empty stomach, spooned small portions on my plate as I walked through the buffet line, and snubbed the sweets. Unfortunately, I was seated within a stone’s throw of the dessert table so I didn’t have the last laugh.
My first mistake—thinking I could look at the dessert when I went for a cup of tea. No harm looking, right? But my willpower was no match for the lust of my eye.
My second mistake—thinking one bite wouldn’t hurt. After all, Thin Within doesn’t want us to live as martyrs and avoid sugar. I reached for the smallest cookie and plopped the whole thing into my mouth. Mmmmmm! That cookie tasted even better than it looked. I took another cookie and returned later for a piece of banana bread.
Now I know there’s freedom in Christ. However, caving into my sweet tooth that night led to a cavalier attitude the next day when I was decorating my house for Christmas. Instead of sitting down for a meal when I was hungry, I nibbled. One bite of cheese led to a handful of peanuts, and eventually, a mini snickers bar and some more peanuts. Not only did I eat more food than I should have that day, I ate so fast that I barely tasted it.
The following day, I noticed I felt hungry more often and it took more food to satisfy me. Which is why I stood in that food truck line at a Christmas faire…salivating over every sight, sound, and scent of food. Isn’t it amazing how far we can backslide within a week?
Now, I could use the holidays as an excuse to binge on delicious treats that I normally don’t eat during the rest of the year, BUT, do I really want to gain back the weight I’ve lost? So what should I do? Torture myself by avoiding the egg nog this month? Or kick myself when I succumb to the yummy temptation?
Thankfully, there is a third option that doesn’t require torture or guilt. I can review my TW workbook and refer to my mobile app, I Deserve a Doughnut. Between those two resources, and relying on God’s grace, I’m hoping to relish the Christmas season without gaining a little round belly that shakes when I laugh like a bowlful of jelly!
I never thought of food as being addictive or destructive, like alcohol or heroin, because food is necessary and good. Food never…
Ruined a marriage
Effected our kids.
Made us unhealthy.
Made us feel shame.
Became a substitute for happiness.
Or so I thought until I became familiar with Thin Within.I started thinking about people that I’ve known whose misuse or attitude towards food did impact their lives in these negative ways that I mentioned. Often, their emotions were the catalyst.
For example, there’s my friend who married a man who wanted a trophy wife. He ragged about her weight—even though she wasn’t fat—until the woman realized she could never be thin enough. Or pretty enough by his standards. She filed for a divorce. “I’d rather live by myself in a one-bedroom apartment with a lawn chair to my name,” she said, “than live with a controlling husband obsessed with my appearance.” Now she probably eats more than she should as if to spite him.
I had a neighbor who either didn’t know how to say “No” to her five-year-old daughter, or the woman was too lazy to cook healthy meals. Her child often ate pizza for dinner and microwaved the leftover pizza for breakfast. The girl always came to ourhouse with a bag of chips or candy. Sadly, the last time I saw her, the girl was overweight and her good health at stake.
Another friend shared that she wet the bed until she was twelve years old. She lived in a chaotic house with parents who—argued, showed favoritism towards her other siblings, and rarely changed her bed sheets. My friend remembers going to bed each night with the damp, yellow stain on her sheet and the rancid smell of urine in her nostrils. Her only solace was food. As her weight increased, her self-esteem shrank. Now, she’s an obese woman who lives alone, can barely walk, and rarely leaves her apartment.
A co-worker of mine (back in the day) binged on an entire quart of ice cream when she felt bad about herself. Desperate to feel loved—and find a husband—she used her body to attract a man at the risk of a one-night stand. Instead of a hangover, she felt ashamed of her promiscuity the next day which only led to more binging; more pounds. More body shame.
I also think of a young mom who had a new-born baby. “I’m fat,” she said. “I’ve never weighed this much in my life. I need to lose weight.”
“It’s baby weight,” I told her, but I knew better because she was home, alone, all day with the infant while her husband worked. They didn’t have a car. Her friends worked. The young mom snacked all day because she was bored and depressed which only made her feel worse because food made her heavy—not happy.
Looking back, I realize my view on weight was skewed and judgmental. I thought these friends needed to be more disciplined and care about their health. After wrestling with weight in my later years, and studying Thin Within principles, I realize self-discipline only takes a person so far.
We can diet, cook light, eat smart, go vegan, join a gym, but these efforts are wearisome. And they don’t address or fix the core problem: Why are we over-eating, binging, purging, and eating food that we know does more harm than good?
Once I recognized the reasons—often subliminal—that govern our eating habits, my eyes opened wide. I no longer see “fat people,” I see fragile people who often use food to numb pain or as a means of escape. Even some people I’ve known who become extremely health conscious are compensating for a lack of self-esteem. Either way, our eating habits seems to rule us more than we know.
If you’re not familiar with Thin Within, I encourage you to join an online class or purchase their workbook. I joined, and learned a new approach to weight loss that had more to do with my relationship with God and how I handle life, than the food I ate.
When I joined a Thin Within online class, Heidi Bylsma asked me to blog about my journey. I’m glad she did. Her request required me go the distance. I had to read the lessons, participate in the online discussion, and apply the principles in order to write about my experience.
Unlike previous attempts to lose weight, I didn’t obsess with food. I didn’t search for recipes to help me cook “light” or “eat smart.” Instead, I learned about portion control, and using food to satisfy my hunger instead of an outlet for my emotions. In time, my appetite shrank and I felt satisfied with less food.
My husband kept asking, “Is that all you’re going to eat?”
I’d respond, “I’m full.” Unable to believe it myself.
Then I was faced with a whopper of a challenge. During the last two weeks of the twelve-week Thin Within class, my husband and I went on a cruise. I shuddered when I first saw the all-you-can-eat buffet with so many enticing options. I had access to delicious food twenty-four seven.
Would this vacation turn my successful weight loss into a shipwreck?
Would I be miserable avoiding particular foods like the soft-serve ice cream?
Would I regret not indulging myself with this smorgasbord of international cuisine?
I took a deep breath. Lord, help me. Then He reminded me, that I’d be onboard for sixteen days. There was no pressure (or need) to taste all the food in one day. I took tablespoon portions—just enough to satisfy my hunger. And the few times I went for a second helping, I found the brief taste wasn’t worth feeling stuffed and bloated.
As it turned out, the buffet line was my best option because I could control my portions compared to the ship’s sit-down restaurants where they served you a set amount that I hated to waste. So the cruise showed me that buffet lines may tempt me, but food is not the enemy.
I am the master of my plate. And I felt victorious when I returned home and discovered I hadn’t gained weight.
Thanks to Thin Within, my attitude towards food has changed.
My taste buds don’t take priority.
Vacations and family celebrations are no less fun if I’m not stuffing my face.
My day isn’t ruined if I don’t eat potato chips with my sandwich.
I also learned the value of TW’s nation-wide online community. I loved reading my fellow classmates’ comments. Their words assured me: I’m not alone in my struggle to lose weight or my low self-esteem when it comes to my body. The members spurred me on—emotionally and spiritually. I couldn’t help but love my classmates and want to pray for them.
Finally, my greatest lesson was a reminder that only Christ…not food…can satisfy my heart. By God’s grace, He enables me—one day at a time—to live without food ruling my heart. There’s freedom in Christ. And that’s the sweetest gift of all.
I dreamt of an elephant.He was held captive by a chain, secured around one leg, and attached to a tent peg. Did that elephant symbolize me? Struggling to walk in the freedom of Christ? Imagine then, when I read the TW Lesson on Forgiveness. The words I’d pondered popped off the page. But first, let me explain that image.
If a mighty elephant can push a tree down and pull heavy logs, why can’t he pull a small peg from the ground to free himself?
Answer: He can escape, but the elephant thinks he is powerless over that chain.
That’s because circus owners, and folks who use elephants as beasts of burden, chain a baby elephant by one leg to a metal pole. He may pull and tug all day, but instead of escaping, the chain cuts into his leg. The effort to free himself becomes pointless. And this mindset—helpless and avoiding physical pain—stays with the elephant so that even as a strong adult, he never attempts to do what he’s capable of doing. Only to say…
How have I been conditioned since childhood to respond in certain ways? Are there previous experiences and voices in my head that cause me to avoid pain or remain stuck? Is there un-forgiveness towards myself or others that keeps me from moving forward? Particularly when it comes to the physical body?
I remember hating my body as a young girl. I wanted to cover myself when I was forced to take a group shower every day during Junior High Girl’s P.E. How could I not compare my skinny body to the more-developed girls around me?
I remember seeing center-fold models in girly magazines when I was a child, and thinking, that’s how I’m supposed to look one day. Then realizing (later in life) that ideal, female figure was an elusive standard I’d never achieve; wondering if that made me any less sexy.
I remember a gal who was raped. She gained a huge amount of weight afterwards. Was she attempting to make herself less attractive to men?
I remember an intelligent, slim teenager who became anorexic because her boyfriend said she wasn’t “perfect enough” and chose someone else.
I remember a man numbing himself with alcohol because he was anxious and lonely.
When I remember these heartaches , I think about that elephant trapped by a chain that cannot hold him. And waits for his master to arrive with the key to release him.
For myself and any Christian who’s enrolled in TW, we’ve been learning about our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. He doesn’t want us chained or yoked to anyone or anything, but Him wherethere is rest and a more abundant life. But how many people…including myself…remain stuck instead of asking God to turn the master key?
What is this master key? Lesson Ten says, “It is God’s grace, which is extended to all God’s beloved through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. It is also His forgiveness, which was freely given on the cross at Calvary. It is through forgiveness that our temple is cleansed and the remaining rubble cleared away.”
And yet, that knowledge isn’t a magic pill. I’ve had to take action, and ask the Lord if there is anything in my upbringing and past that needs to be unearthed and then released in order to move forward and experience His peace and joy.
Do I need to forgive my own sin and imperfections? Forgive others who may have intentionally—or not—treated me poorly or trained me to view myself in a shameful way? Perhaps I need to talk to God about something He allowed in my life that I didn’t “feel” I deserved. Or an expectation He didn’t meet. Back in the day, I had to confess my anger towards God when I suffered from three miscarriages.
The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to leave the past behind and walk forward in faith, by God’s grace. However, if I….
Refuse to believe I’m forgiven and free in Christ,
Think it’s impossible (or refuse) to forgive those who have wronged me,
Turn to food to escape the past instead of Christ,
Then I’ll live my life hobbled like that seemingly helpless elephant chained to the tent peg.
And if that image saddens me, imagine how God feels when He sees His children stuck in one place when they could be romping like calves.
“Try to stay inside the lines,” said my teacher when I colored the picture of an an apple.
“Stay inside the yard,” warned mymother me when I went outside to play.
As a people-pleaser and big-time rule keeper, I complied. And that mindset colored my Christian faith. “What are the rules? Where are the lines? What am I supposed to do, Lord, to get into heaven?”
I was in my mid-twenties before I realized I could never be good enough or do enough good deeds to earn my salvation. Imagine the weight off my shoulders to know my salvation was based on God’s grace and Christ’s finished work on the cross.
However, I still tried to stay in the lines albeit most of them were self-imposed based on man-made rules. I didn’t always love the rules, but I wanted to earn God’s love and approval. I was in my forties before I realized God loves me as much today as yesterday. He loves me not because I’m good, but because God is good. And nothing—not even straying outside the lines—can snatch me out of my loving Father’s hands.
Only to say, I thought I understood freedom in Christ until Heidi sent me an email. She was concerned about me. Was I stuck in a diet mentality? Did I understand freedom? We never talked, but her question had me thinking. What does freedom look like? Am I enslaved to bad eating habits, faulty thinking, and idols that have nothing to do with my weight?
Perhaps that was God’s intervention. Because after a week of straying from TW principles, I realized I was going outside the lines because I have no boundaries when it comes to eating. I just think I do because I refuse to stock my pantry with soda and the junk food that I love.
Left to my own understanding and strength, I’ve lost weight with the help of TW principles, but I didn’t get the whole enchilada…the bigger picture…until I listened to another webinar by Heidi on the benefits of a Grace-Based Approached to Eating. She said, “We lose weight, but grow in character.”
Grow in character? Until now, my God list and Truth Cards had been eye-opening, but I saw them as a secondary benefit to my main goal: LOSE WEIGHT.
Then, Gina recapped Lesson Nine by quoting Jeremiah 2:25, “But you said, ‘It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.'” She might as well have hit me over the head with a watermelon.
Could it be the little girl (me) who grew up learning to stay inside the lines…who wanted the lines so I’d know how to live without fear of retribution or displeasing God and people…is really a rebel at heart?
Is it possible that avoiding boundaries (or justifying them in favor of what I love) seems like a small thing when it comes to food. But in fact, points to a deeper heart problem?
The gracious conviction of the Holy Spirit gave me this major Truth to chew on: I need to lose my rebellious pride and sense of entitlement, more than I need to lose weight.
If I’m ever going to stay in my boundaries while experiencing the freedom in Christ, I’ll need to follow Jesus more closely. And focus on Him instead of the lines.
My recent loss with the Battle of the Binge—and the TW Lesson on Gideon—showed me three things when it comes to losing and maintaining weight.
First, I had to admit that controlling my appetite is an ongoing battle.
I’m not sprinting towards a blue ribbon at the end of a twelve-week course. Food surrounds me daily like an enemy encircling camp. Waiting to sabotage me at every turn.
For example, last week, the slim hostess of our book club…not knowing I’m trying to lose weight…set a plate of cookies on the table in front of me. I moved them towards the middle of the table and kept my eyes on whoever was discussing the book.
Then someone had the audacity to eat a cookie in front of me. She licked the crumbs off her fingers. Licked the mint chocolate from her lips. Actually, that’s an exaggeration, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a cookie. Craving sugar gave me hallucinations.
Instead of quoting a truth card or memory verse, I told myself, “There’s freedom in Christ. One cookie won’t hurt.” Only, that cookie tasted so good that I ate another one.
Yep, even though I observed and tried to correct, I succumbed to temptation. Every TW lesson shredded to pieces by my emotional longing to have a cookie.
If I’d been alone, I might have crawled on the table and made a feast of those cookies like the Cookie Monster in Sesame Street. Which is strange, because given the choice, I’d much rather have a cheese plate or a bowl of buttered popcorn.
Sadly, by succumbing to my sweet tooth, I drove home and made myself some fatty, greasy nachos. I’d like to say losing the Battle of the Binge made me feel ashamed. Not really. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I said, “tomorrow is another day.” And gave myself a heap of grace.
Secondly, I can’t fight this food battle on my own.Like Gideon’s 300 men, I need others to come beside me.
Had there been like-minded women at the book club, we could have smashed the cookies and exiled them into the kitchen trash. Or I could have played the heroine. Grabbed the cookie from my friend’s mouth to save her from those worthless calories.
That’s why the TW online community has been a delectable treat. Each day, I’m able to read about other warrior’s temptations, defeats, and victories! As we’ve encouraged and prayed for each other, the battle seems less overwhelming. I’m not alone. Neither are you!
Thirdly, I can’t fight the battle on my own strength.
Not only do I need to put on the armor of Christ each morning, I need to follow Him throughout my day.
Listing God’s attributes isn’t TW busy work. In order to trust God to lead us to victory, and lean on Him when we’re empty (no pun intended) we need to know Him. Not just intellectually, by reading His Word, but spending time with Him so we’re familiar with His voice. And thus, more eager to obey Him.
Yep, last week I went A.W.O.L. from my healthy eating habits. But nothing’s wasted. By losing that Battle of the Binge, I’ve learned the value of the right tactics so I can win the next one.
Standing on the scale, I watched the digital numbers escalate while my weight was calculated. The final number made me cringe.
How can I exercise all week, control my appetite, and not lose an ounce?
Weeks earlier, I faced two choices: Lose weight or buy a bigger pair of pants. I elected to change my eating habits and exercise regularly. I was motivated as long as my pounds decreased. When I hit the plateau, self discipline took a nose dive.
That evening, I indulged my craving for a HUGE bowl of popcorn that was smothered with melted butter. Yep, ate the whole thing.
I don’t know how many calories I consumed, but I didn’t taste an ounce of guilt when I licked the bottom of the greasy bowl.
Contrary to all the weight loss miracle ads, losing weight (in a healthy way) is a slow, methodic process. And when it comes to building and toning muscles, forget instant gratification.
However, since I joined Thin Within and began eating healthier and exercising, my pants are less tight. I have more energy; more strength. My mental outlook improved. Isn’t that worth the process?
Or am I only focused on an end result—reaching that ideal number on my scale? If that’s true, my healthy regimen is a temporary fling like a summer romance instead of a necessary, life-long commitment.
The same holds true for spiritual growth.
Years ago, whenever I wanted to experience more of God’s presence and become a “better Christian,” I’d pray more and inundate myself with reading the Bible and Christian material.
I experienced spiritual growth spurts; glimpsed moments of euphoria. However, I couldn’t maintain that spiritual high or rate of growth. Finally, I realized…
There’sno such thing as microwave Christianity.
We renew our minds by the daily reading of God’s Word. Then we’re chiseled and changed by the Holy Spirit in the minuscule moments of each day.
This slow, sometimes painful, chiseling process is necessary to achieve God’s finished product: molding us into the likeness of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)
My task is learning how to obey and cooperate when I’m confronted with God’s Word. For example…
Do I listen to my heart’s desire to complain, scold, attack, and ridicule? Or make peace?
Do I apply God’s Word throughout my week even though the lessons are painful?
Do I sweat to do the right thing? Or cave in when something becomes too difficult?
Do I rely on my own strength? Or lean on the Lord to make a way in the wilderness?
“Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation.”(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).
If I want to strengthen my faith and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22), then I must abide in Christ.
NOT sporadically during a spiritual whim or when I want to lose weight, but habitually.
And when I mess up…eat too much, fail to read God’s Word, condemn myself…I’ll return to the One who loves me regardless of my weight. For His grace isn’t based on my performance!
Am I alone in thinking this Thin Within journey is like the kids’ board game, Chutes and Ladders? Move your pawn forward to a particular space, then shoot up the ladder onto victory. Or land on a bad space (like eating too many cookies) and the pawn slides down the chute cause you have a tummy ache.
That’s me! One day, I’m moving ahead. Controlling my appetite. Tightening my belt. The next day, I over indulge and slide backwards. Drats! Foiled again! Takes forever to win. However, unlike the game whose progression is controlled by a spinning needle, I’m doing this to myself. Unless of course, the “devil made me do it.”
What is so difficult about not eating until I’m hungry and stopping when I’m a satisfied? The way I whine and limp along this 0-5 journey, you’d think someone asked me to race around the track in a wheelchair or swim freestyle with my eyes closed as though I’m blind. If anyone watched the Paralympic Games, you’ll understand. These disabled Olympians push their physical limits to win the race.
What’s my excuse for crossing my boundaries and giving up before I’ve reached my goal and won the prize? I’m not an athlete. But even the Apostle Paul writes in terms that inspires me to finish the race.
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave….” (1 Cor. 9:26,27).
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Phil. 3:14).
The cost of reaching and maintaining my God-ordained weight means I may have to suffer. But what’s wrong with suffering if the prize is a thinner, healthier me who feels good in her skin from the inside out. What if suffering is the means to help me listen to God so He enables me to walk in the Spirit instead of submitting to my fickle flesh which entices me to eat…what I want when I want.
Besides, does an empty stomach cause more (or less) suffering than a bloated belly ache accompanied by a heavy dose of guilt and regret? And why should emotional comfort and eating to numb my pain override my common sense to do what’s best for my body?
Great questions to mull over when I’m salivating for that Godiva chocolate.
The wonderful thing about Thin Within is that no one expects me to fight this battle or win the race/game on my own strength. The lessons constantly bring me back to God’s Word which teaches and trains me in the way I should go.
That said, I’m also realizing the victory isn’t about self-discipline and buffeting my body as much as focus. Where am I looking for victory?
If success depends on human efforts alone….doing every lesson, filling out truth cards, my God list, my hunger charts, my not eating too many cookies…I’ll keep slip sliding backwards.
Instead,I must look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith—who suffered and died for me—that I might live victoriously.