Image Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Image Courtesy of iStockPhoto

“Everything is permissible for me”
—but not everything is beneficial. 
“Everything is permissible for me”
—but I will not be mastered by anything.  
– 1 Corinthians 6:12

This is a repost. I have found that this issue has been coming up for a lot of the people I have been coaching, so I thought others might be encouraged with this information, too.

For those of you who are visual and prefer the video version, here is a video (email subscribers will have to come to the blog to see). This is an old video posted first in about 2008:

Thin Within has three “phases.” For some people, these phases are, indeed, a progression. For others, it is more like layers of an onion…they get to a certain “phase” to discover God peels away the onion and they step back and discover a new level to an earlier phase. I will just describe them in a linear fashion though, for simplicity.

First phase is the Freedom Phase. “All things are permissible.” This phase blows the lid off the dieting box! God designed our bodies to give signals when we are hungry (what Thin Within calls “0”) and to cue us when we have had enough food, too (what Thin Within calls “5”).

When we respond to our bodies in this way, any food is permissible. All the “can’t haves” and “do nots” of the dieting world fall away and no longer make us feel condemned! Freedom! No need to worry about counting anything.

The temptation many experience is to go a bit bonkers with this phase.  😀 Foods that have been “off limits” for years are suddenly “legalized!” When eating 0 to 5, a person can eat hot fudge sundaes, pizza, full fat salad dressings and still release weight. It is true! (True confessions: I lost most of my weight eating foods that people consider “junk” food or “unhealthy” food. Honest. I only like veggies in salsa. :-))

The freedom phase is a time of building, building, building, a foundation of my relationship with the Lord. He teaches me to lean on him more and more–especially as I discover that waiting for hunger is REALLY HARD! I realize that I have so many reasons I want to turn to food other than physical hunger. Remove my coping mechanism (overeating) and now I have to deal with my heart. God shows me He can be relied upon to help with this process.

So phase 1 includes learning how reliable He is to help me wait for physical hunger, to heal my heart that has issues that surface and that he can also help me to know when to stop eating. What does “hungry” and “satisfied” even feel like? Phase 1 participants are not considering so much the nutrition or benefit to eating one food or another. They are developing confidence that their bodies are reliable and that God is sufficient for meeting all their needs.

Phase 2 – Discernment Phase is based on the next part of the verse…Since all things are permissible, but NOT all things are beneficial, I need to exercise discernment.

Now I begin to evaluate prayerfully how does God want me to nourish my body? What foods really work best for me? As I ask, He shows! I begin to see that I have a responsibility and this is an awesome privilege! I begin to scrutinize my choices. Thin Within calls the categories for food Teasers, Pleasers, Whole Body Pleasers, Total Rejects. This is explained in the Thin Within book in detail in chapter 18.

I still don’t worry about nutrition labels, but some phase 2 folks have the freedom to be able to read labels and use what they know to ask God for wisdom in feeding their bodies. More importantly than food labels, however, I begin to notice how various foods cause my body to react or feel. I still eat only when hungry and stop when satisfied physically. But I begin to see that my body is amazingly efficient! It gets by with so much less food than I ever thought possible, so I begin to want to fuel it with high octane fuel! Like a high performance race car, I begin to see that different fuels will cause performance to vary! With so little food needed, I really begin to make what I put in my body count. I do this with joy and without a sense of deprivation because the foundation established in Phase 1 is still in place. I am free. All things are permissible! I delight to do God’s will and what that looks like for one person will be VERY different than what it looks like for another.

In phase 2, we probably don’t have an entire meal of German chocolate cake like we may have during phase 1. Or if we do, it won’t be as often as during phase 1.

Instead, in phase 2, we may reserve some “space” in our stomachs (within 0 to 5 eating) for a small taste of whatever it is we have always loved so much at the end of a small meal. We continue to delight in our freedom, but we begin to see that freedom means not just free TO eat, but free from having to have whatever it is we used to live for! Having a smaller amount at the end of a satisfying meal does as much for us as having the entire thing for dinner did in phase 1.

One other thing about Phase 2, the Discernment Phase, is we also begin to scrutinize our choices regarding activity. We begin to see that this body, God’s chosen dwelling place on earth, can operate best when it is given some activity. In phase 1 we have delighted in the *fact* that we don’t *need* exercise to lose weight (not if we eat between 0 and 5!!!), but we nevertheless realize that we are free to exercise in a godly way…that this is something that honors the Lord when we do it for His glory instead of our own like many of us have in our dieting/exercising pasts. We realize in phase 2 (if not sooner) that we don’t just want to release extra weight, but we want our bodies to be fit temples as well. We want to be able to go up stairs and not be winded. We want to be able to run and play with our kids, go to the snow, go swimming and splash around, horseback ride, and not feel like our bodies are going through the ringer! We want to be healthy, vibrant and truly as alive as possible for all the days God ordains for us to be on this earth! That all happens as we worship God through moving our bodies! Be it through dancing to praise music, walking the dog, getting silly with the kids, or our every day chores done with a bit more spring in our step…and some, of course, can even do a regimented workout schedule without becoming obsessed. Some can do it with a worshipful submissive heart!

Phase 3 – The Mastery Phase – is based on the last part of 1 Corinthians 6:12 “I will not be mastered by anything.” Can I say no to hot fudge sundaes? Sure, they are permissible. And I can choose to have some if I wish…but do I have to have ice cream? (Or whatever it might be for any particular person?)

The person in the Mastery Phase might discover that the brownies the kids made last week got buried beneath mail on the kitchen counter and never got eaten, even though previously she LIVED for brownies!  Sure, they are “permissible” and sure she can have some…but it just doesn’t matter any more…she doesn’t have to have brownies or any dessert at all! Or she can slide the chips and salsa away at the Mexican restaurant without having any because she would rather enjoy the entree! She isn’t going to bow to her tastebuds!

These phases are dynamic, not static. You don’t just “arrive” at Mastery and stay there forever *necessarily*. Maybe some people do eventually. But I have found that some of us may always have a “thorn in our flesh” that causes us to keep needing the Lord to help us through…our desire for food may be what God uses to keep us clinging to Him the rest of our lives…but what a wonderful thing it is for something that once caused so much pain in my life (my overeating) to be used of God to call me to himself again and again…Praise Him for redeeming that which the enemy intended for my constant harm all my days!

Which phase are you in? What will you need to believe in order to move to the next phase?