Seeking First the Kingdom of God ~ Guest Post by Brenda Ameli

Seeking First the Kingdom of God ~ Guest Post by Brenda Ameli

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I have worked through all four of the Thin Within workbooks.

I have worked through the Thin Within book.

I have led Thin Within groups three times in the last ten years.

I am a certified Wellness Coach and Pilates instructor.

I teach.

I KNOW this stuff!

And yes, here I am, still yearning for freedom, still waiting on God. Still wondering when I will be set free from struggling with excess eating and excess body weight.

Perhaps it’s precisely because I am immersed in the world of fitness that I am easily distracted and find it hard to keep my eyes fixed on the path that I know is the only way to freedom in this.

A few months ago I invested in a season of private coaching with Heidi Bylsma; a very wise decision!  I remember sending her my daily logs with my “hunger numbers”—almost always reporting 0 to 5 eating.  And yet I saw no weight loss and felt no progress happening.  Heidi pointed out the discrepancy. ☺  As is the way of a good coach, Heidi put the observation out there and left it to me to wrestle with:  “Brenda, you report eating within your chosen boundary of 0 to 5 on a consistent basis, yet you say you are not seeing the results you’d hoped for.”

In my wrestling, I decided I needed to more clearly define a “5.” Obviously I was eating past 5, so in my mind the solution was to get better at stopping at a 5.

One morning God turned the light on for me; all I had worked on with Heidi became clear as I read through the book of Joshua.

I came to the part where the land is being divided up between the tribes of Israel. I noticed how clear and precise the boundaries were and I started thinking how boundaries are important to God—God gives us boundaries for our safety, health and because He knows what is truly good for us.

In Joshua 18 the Scripture tells us that there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not received their inheritance. And Joshua says to them, ” How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your ancestors has given you?”

God spoke to me through that—How long am I going to wait until I do MY part to take possession of the freedom that God has given me?

It’s my inheritance!

God has given it to me, but it is up to me to do my due diligence and receive what God has for me.

For me, at this point in my journey, trying to more precisely define  a “5” on the hunger scale is not where God wants my focus.

I believe He is showing me that my part is to do what it takes to place myself before Him every single day for the renewing of my mind; soaking in the truth of His Word, writing Truth Cards as a daily practice, being honest about where I am spiritually and what I am doing, as well as what I am eating.

Sunday morning at church God again spoke to me—this time through a guest speaker.  She was teaching from Genesis chapters 2 and 3, and she came to Chapter 3 verses 8 and 9, where Adam and Eve have disobeyed God and eaten from the one tree in the garden that He had forbidden.  In verse 9 God calls out to Adam, saying, “Where are you?

I believe that God is asking that of me as well.  “Where are you with ME, Brenda?”   Are you living in all the abundance I have given you, or are you in a place of rebellion?  What tree are you choosing?”

To me it’s a really big deal is that I finally have taken my eyes off of seeking weight loss above everything– although I haven’t given up and I do still want it.  It’s that now I am seeking FIRST the kingdom of God;  seeking GOD through specific, daily practices so that my focus turns away from food and body obsession.

I have learned that the daily practices of prayer, Bible reading, writing and reading Truth Cards, praising God in song, lifting my face to Him will bring about the renewing of my mind and the transforming of my heart, my body, and my life.  And then eating within the boundaries of 0 to 5 will be a natural result of my decision to claim my inheritance and choose the abundant life He alone offers.

Brenda~ Brenda Ameli. Brenda lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, teaching mind body movement and leading the women’s ministry at her church.

How About You?

Is it possible that “thin” or “0” or “5” has actually become a distraction from what God wants for you? Does God want you to focus elsewhere? What might responding to His invitation in this look like for you?

I Want a PAY Off!

ATM machines. Amazing devices. But, even after all these years, I still view them with distrust. All the more since the unthinkable happened.

On a lazy Saturday evening last summer, I stood at the local ATM machine to make a deposit in my personal account. I inserted  two checks totaling what, to me, is a significant amount of money. As I waited for the machine to verify that I had followed my end of the bargain :-), I noticed that all was not well. The ATM was taking a bit too long to respond. Then, horror of horrors!

“ERROR” appeared on the screen.

Something had gone wonky with the entire automated process. The checks were gone and no deposit was credited to my account. I fully anticipated that giving the machine my hard-won checks, I would have money present in my account in short order (even if not immediately).

After a conversation with a national customer service line representative and two visits to the bank, there was still no money posted to my account. In time, however, the deposit did show up.

I am not in the habit of waiting for much of anything. If I make a sacrifice of some sort, then this is especially true… I want a return on it …YESTERDAY! The ATM fiasco just illustrated this in a practical way.

Isn’t the same true for most of us in our quest to discover our “natural, God-given size?” In fact, this tendency may rush us right past what it will take to even make the changes. Or, assuming, we can “clean” the “outside of the cup,” or “constrain” our outer behavior, we may release weight, but the first trial that hits, we revert back to old behaviors and we are off on that downward slide once again.

What if we were to take the slow way…the reliable way? What if this struggle with food, our bodies, eating, isn’t so much about our size, but about our souls? What if God wants us to learn something we can learn no other way? What if he wants us to learn how desperately we need him? What if he wants us to learn the power of training our minds to think differently?

When you invest your time in renewing your mind, in training yourself to think truthfully, even before you are tempted to eat outside of your boundaries, you can actually gain a new mindset that can activate at just the right moment—say when you are most tempted to give in to desire eating! This does take extra time, yes. Like giving up my hard-earned checks to the ATM, I want instant gratification for a sacrifice. There aren’t many things we want to lose other than weight and there aren’t many things we are willing to give up, but we have to be willing to give up…to invest some of our time if we want to learn to think differently about food, about God, about ourselves, about our bodies, about this process.

First thing in the morning, when I am fresh, committed, resolved…it is then that I take the time to renew my mind, to carve out that time to go over in my mind what is true. I select from one of the many tools that I have shared here at the blog or from Barb Raveling’s website. I don’t need to do them all. I don’t need to take much time, even, but doing something makes all the difference in the world. Taking time to think, ponder, speak out loud such thoughts as these will be making an investment in a future return:

“Eating 0 to 5 is richly rewarding.”

“Eating according to these boundaries for me allows me freedom to enjoy all foods within moderation.”

“It is much better to live by design rather than by desire.”

“If I make sacrifices to live according to my boundaries starting now, life will be less chaotic, more peaceful and my body more healthy two months from now.”

As you begin to invest time in telling yourself the truth, in writing out these truths, in designing your truth cards, listening to encouraging Sound Cloud files or creating your own :-), you will find that in the moment of temptation, these are the thoughts that will come into your mind to strengthen you! When you just finished eating a wonderful dinner 0 to 5 and your high school daughter brings in a freshly baked plate of cookies that she made at a friend’s, the thoughts that you invested time thinking about will bathe your mind, enabling you to stand strong in the face of temptation.

Imagine, you are staring down a warm chocolate chip cookie (or four) and the thoughts that hit your mind are, “How many cookies will it really take to satisfy me right now?” or “Will I break a boundary right now if I eat this? What will I gain if I break my boundary right now? What will I lose? What will life look like (inside and out) if I practice *now* living according to this boundary? Is it a good boundary? How will what I do in this moment affect the larger picture? What choice do I really want to make right now?”

If I have spent time renewing my mind once or, even, twice a day, these are the thoughts that come to mind in those weaker moments, bringing with them life and strength infusing power to honor my body, my boundaries, and my God!

I can’t recommend enough the value of taking one set of questions from Barb Raveling’s book I Deserve a Donut and Other Likes That Make You Want To Eat (or her iPhone app) each day…preferably close to the time of day when you are most prone to struggle (I do this at 5pm each day in preparation for the temptation I have to engage in evening eating), and journal the answers. I have found that, for me, just thinking about the questions isn’t enough. I need to sit down and actually grapple with the questions a bit. Seeing my answers in print is really helpful. I do this even when I am not tempted. (Not many of us want to sit down and journal when we are being tempted.)

The time invested is SO worth it. In fact, I have found the investment worth some other sacrifices. I now set my alarm to wake me up earlier, giving me plenty of time in the morning to be able to renew my mind. It is like putting a deposit in an ATM (one that WORKS, though!). I know that if I put that time in, it will come back with lots of additional benefits.

How About You?

If you haven’t seen the consistency in your life with practicing the Thin Within principles or maintaining your godly boundaries of eating between hunger and satisfaction, are you willing to consider the possibility that you need to change things up? That it might be beneficial to begin now to invest some time (maybe even lose a little sleep…even 15 minutes!) in training your mind to be alert and ready for action? What are you willing to start doing today? If doing this every day is too much, you might want to consider 4x a week to start with. You might be surprised and actually enjoy it! 🙂 I know you will be pleased with the way it impacts your thinking!

Holidays: Planning Ahead

Holidays: Planning Ahead


Image courtesy of nuttakit at

Christmas is upon us, followed by New Years, which brings parties, potlucks, family dinners, buffets of sweets, candy, etc.  In my Gearing Up for the Holidays post I shared about ways to be proactive before the holiday celebrations begin.  This time, I would like to share what took place before Thanksgiving in order for me to prepare for the big feast.

For several months now, since participating in the Renewing of the Mind study, I have been reading through my truth cards each day.  I’ve stated before how important it has been to be in the Word and reading those truths each day: it’s literally CHANGED my life!  The Lord has done an amazing work.  He gets all of the praise, honor, and glory!  So knowing how powerful His word is in renewing my mind and transforming my life, I knew how important it was to have those truths before my eyes before Thanksgiving.

This is what I did to plan ahead:

1. I wrote in my journal, which is ultimately a prayer journal.  I asked the Lord to help me in the days ahead to stay within my boundaries.

2. I looked at Barb Raveling’s app ‘I Deserve a Donut’ about social eating, which suggested I read the parts about Justification Eating and Entitlement Eating.

3.  In my journal, I wrote out the Justification Eating questions and answered them.  I mentally saw myself on Thanksgiving day and the days surrounding Thanksgiving, knowing that I may be tempted to be a social eater or to make excuses to eat beyond what my body needs.

4. I wrote down notes from the app that really spoke to me so I could look back at them if needed.

5.  I wrote out a plan of what I wanted Thanksgiving day to look like.  I knew that we would be eating with dinner-size plates (I usually use a small plate), so I visually planned to load up my plate as if it was a small plate.  I decided that I would eat slowly, savoring each bite, leaving one bite of food on my plate.  I decided I would not take seconds.  And then later I would enjoy a small serving of dessert, even if I wasn’t fully at a “0” (I felt that this was pleasing to the Lord and acceptable in His sight).

6.  I wrote out a plan for when we would be going to a restaurant one of the days surrounding Thanksgiving.  Since we were out of town, we wanted to visit our favorite restaurant in the area.  I knew what I wanted for an appetizer and the entrée, so I planned ahead for what I felt would help me stay within my 0-5 boundary.

7.  I wrote the victories I had already experienced that week, praising God for what He has done.  I needed to remember those victories and remember that God is my strength!

How did it all turn out?  The Lord gets all of the glory!  I was amazed at how smooth Thanksgiving went.  I ate according to the plan and I felt completely satisfied.  While there were others who said they were stuffed and needed to nap, I felt energized.  And a few hours after our meal, I was hungry and ate again.  I am so thankful for what the Lord did that day and the days surrounding Thanksgiving.  I was faithful to keep my eyes on Him and His truth and He was faithful to watch over His word to perform it.  Praise God!

And He wants to do the same for you!

How about you?

Do you have a journal you can write out a plan in?  How do you want to visualize yourself  for the upcoming holiday celebrations?  What can you do to prepare?

Written by: Christina

When Your Routine Will Be ZAPPED – 3 Survival Strategies

samson kids christmas dog (2)

A very young Michaela and Daniel Bylsma, with the Christmas Dog, Samson.

Holidays and weekends are wonderful. Many of us get to enjoy a footloose and fancy free attitude. We get to “let down.”

But often this change in our routine  brings with it some challenging trials to navigate.

Often we get a sense of “safety” and predictability from our “business as usual” routine during the week when we don’t have holiday happenings, weekend wanderings, or guests landing on our doorsteps. So managing these “zaps” to our routine require intentionality!

The question becomes: How can we incorporate some sense of predictability and a friendly bit of routine into our weekends or holidays or when family/friends are visiting without ruining the experience?

1. ) Integrating some aspect of predictability into our lives can be very helpful without spoiling the party! Sometimes, I call this “planned spontaneity.” For instance, if we know that the family really enjoys suddenly jumping in the car to go out looking at Christmas lights followed by a stop at the favorite Marie Callendar’s for pie, it can help us to plan to be at a zero for this event if we are intentional about the timing of the “surprise” visit out to look at the lights and to enjoy pie. Rather than leave these sorts of events up to chance, we can build the joy and suspense in our family members’ lives by surprising them with a plan earlier in the day. I have found that the family looks forward to the event and the joy isn’t diminished. In fact, it seems to be intensified in a fun way as we anticipate the outing all day! AND I get the added benefit of not having left something like that to chance when I might still be satisfied after having dinner just an hour prior. I can plan to be hungry so that I eat pie guilt-free!

2. ) When company comes to visit, I know that meals may not be quite so predictable. Having an assortment of nuts and fresh fruit/veggies available for pre-meal munching if we get hungry before the meal is ready can be a life-saver! This eliminates the concern that we will get too hungry before the holiday feast is prepared. That said, however, we have also learned over the years that we won’t melt into nothingness if we get hungry even an hour before we gather at the table and the meal is ready. “When in doubt, leave it out” is a helpful adage. Having company doesn’t need to spell disaster for our 0 to 5 boundaries. Instead, we can commit ourselves to honoring our godly boundaries, call on God’s strength and have some “fortifications” on hand that we can turn to if we need to. Knowing that foods are accessible any time we get hungry, but also that we are perfectly safe and ok if we get hungry and linger there for a little while, helps prevent the panicked eating we sometimes do when things are less predictable.

3.) For me, to maintain my focus and not give in to continuous celebratory grazing during holiday time, I have to carve out time to renew my mind each day at least once, if not twice. I can do this by setting my alarm a bit earlier than normal so that I take the time to be still with the Lord before company or family members awaken or arrive. Lately, I also take time at 5pm each evening to refocus…to recommit my eating to the Lord for the evening–even five minutes helps! While this may seem to be a sacrifice that is too great for us when we would rather use those extra moments to sleep in or to relax, I have found that it is worth it. Establishing a priority to taking time to bible study, review Truth Cards, Truth Journal, listen to Sound Cloud files, journal a set of “I Deserve a Donut” questions or other similar activities brings me out the other side with a sense of accomplishment and victory! It is worth it!

What About You?

What baby step of routine can you incorporate into the days ahead that lead up to Christmas? What about for Christmas Day? How will you maintain your godly boundaries in spite of the challenges to your routine? If you share here, you may inspire and encourage others!

Battle Update

Battle Update


Screen shot of the notes on my phone

Last week I posted about the battle I was going through.  I wanted to give an update.

As I said in the post, my battle plan was:  to be in the Word, to pray, to thank the Lord, to read my truth cards, to renew my mind, to keep pressing on!

And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!  And God has been faithful to help me this week!  Praise God!

Each morning, before I even get out of bed, I read the Bible, followed by reading my truth cards, my notes on my phone, journaling, and sometimes Thin Within (which I started reading again this past week).  This starts my day on the right foot and gets my mind in the right place.

Another thing I have been making more of an effort in doing is journaling.  When I have overeaten, I will write about it in my journal afterwards.  Usually, the overeating takes place at night, so I will write about it in the morning.  There have also been times when the enemy has attacked my mind with thoughts about going back to dieting, so I have been truth journaling about why that’s not something I or God wants me to do.  I will write every truth I can think of to dissolve the lie the enemy is throwing at me.  It’s been SO good to journal more!

I’ve also been setting a timer on my phone which prompts me to open my notes on my phone displaying three scriptures (which I share a screen shot of above).  It’s amazing how having those reminders during the day really makes a difference.

Can I encourage you to start your truth cards if you haven’t already?  There is power in the Word of God!  It becomes clear to me more and more about how important it is for me to read those cards each day.  I have literally watched the Lord transform my life in the area of eating and all it’s taken is me taking the time to read those truth-packed cards.  Renewing our mind is so important: change begins WITHIN!

The evening has been the hardest for me lately.  Because of where I am at in my pregnancy (baby is bulking up), I’m starting to get a little hungrier.  For awhile there I wasn’t hungry enough to eat in the evening, but now I am finding that I am hungry and need to eat.  The interesting thing is that even if I’m at a “0” and I eat, the enemy tries to condemn me for eating.  It’s probably because I was making such an effort to not eat if I wasn’t at a “0” before.  The condemnation was the driving force behind me thinking that I can’t trust myself, that I need to go on a diet after pregnancy, and blah, blah, blah.  That’s where the battle would begin in my mind.  So I continue to press on with the Lord by doing my part in renewing my mind and He does the rest.  Praise God!

Friends, let’s continue to press on with the Lord in this journey toward becoming thin within.  It starts with our mind.  As God continues to do His mighty work within us, it will become evident outside of us!

How about you? 

Do you feel like you are still in the heavy part of the battle?  Are you putting on the full armor of God each day?  Will you join me in spending time in the Word and renewing your mind with your truth cards?  The enemy is the Father of lies, but God will dissolve every lie the enemy throws at us.  God is so good–all the time!

Written by: Christina