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 did not design us to fixate on a number of calories of fat grams per day and to eat without regard for our bodies’ signals. Instead, he designed us to eat in response to the signals of our bodies–the signals that indicate our bodies are physically in need of nourishment and physically no longer in need of nourishment–satisfaction.
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 fat grams or calorie content.
Truthfully, many people LOVE this phase and go a bit bonkers with it. Foods that have been “off limits” for years are suddenly “legalized!” When eating 0 to 5, a person can still eat hot fudge sundaes, pizza, full fat salad dressings and still release weight. It is true!
Most importantly, though, 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 have so many reasons I want to turn to food that now I suddenly see myself as being…well…a bit messed up! LOL! Remove my coping mechanism (overeating) and now I have to deal with my heart…God is there to show me He can be relied upon to help with this process of course.
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. Phase 1 participants are not considering so much the nutrition or benefit to eating one food or another. They are developing that 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, this implies I need to exercise discernment.
In phase 1, I developed my relationship with the Lord, now I begin to evaluate prayerfully …how does He 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! This is when I begin to scrutinize my choices. Thin Within calls the categories I may place foods in Teasers, Pleasers, Whole Body Pleasers, Total Rejects. This is explained in the book in detail.
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.
People in this phase may continue to carve out a little space for what have been their favorite foods or “treats” in the past–typically not as much as in phase 1, maybe…like in Phase 1 we may have had a hot fudge sundae for dinner, typically by phase 2 we aren’t doing that so much any more as we have noticed we don’t feel as energized when we do that. (Just as an example.)
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. 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 and lust after! 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 the Discernment Phase…phase 2…is we also begin to scrutinize our choices regarding activity or a sedentary lifestyle. 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. There are so many thin people who aren’t fit…and we realize in phase 2 (if not sooner…LOL!) 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…go horseback riding…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! (I hope to some day…I am not free in that way yet…)
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! (Can you tell chocolate has been my big thrill in life? LOL!) While the pan of brownies was in the house, it never has the pull the way they did before. 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 is no longer mastered by anything but the Lord Jesus as a general rule of life. (Obviously, no one is completely sinless until the Lord takes us home to be with Him…this is a progression!)
I don’t know if this makes sense…and really, 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!