I was an obnoxious kid.
I was also an abused kid.
I was abused the most around food. My parents had their hands full with me. I was a lot of kid. And their life plans didn’t include me at that late season of life.
Children were to be Seen and Not Heard, but boy…at meal time, it was ALL about me! My parents force-fed me vegetables. I gagged. I threw up. Then I was beaten.
I now associate anything green (other than mint chip ice cream) with “YUCK!” (I still can’t eat vegetables today without gagging—unless the veggies are in salsa!)
I don’t know how old I was when I learned to sneak food.
I also don’t know how old I was when my father started to molest me.
But the two together were a perfect recipe for extreme weight gain in junior high. Finding comfort in the food that I sneaked, I packed on the pounds. It was one way to guarantee that I would be left alone by groping male hands (not just my Dad’s, but also neighborhood boys).
In high school, my mom put me on a diet–it was just another way of force-feeding me.
Seventeen magazine motivated me at times to whimsically vow to exercise and eat differently. Resolve lagged. My thinking was stuck.
Food had been my “friend” through a tumultuous childhood with two alcoholic parents. As a teen, my best friend and I cut classes to bake and eat an entire pan of brownies on more than one occasion. We routinely downed an entire large pizza together, considering ourselves virtuous for having walked to the pizza parlor and back instead of having our moms drive us.
Once, we ordered a whole mud pie at the local Baskin Robbins. We fabricated a conversation about all the people at home who were (supposedly) waiting for us to bring back the pie. We wouldn’t want the clerk to suspect we planned to sit down with two spoons and eat it all by ourselves.
One of the first church weight-loss support groups I attended was a “Love Hunger” group. I have no memory of the meetings, but on the way home every week I went through the drive-thru, grabbing an “Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger,” fries, and cheesecake. (Maybe it was “second dinner?”)
When my kids were little, I attended Weight Watchers. That, combined with an online support group, moved me to become even more obsessive about food, exercise, and my body. I obsessed away 100 pounds of physical weight! VICTORY!…More chains coiled around my heart. As silly as it sounds, Women’s Day magazine sent a professional photographer and did a story about how I connected with other people online to get and give support to lose weight.
Hydrostatic weighing (“dunk tank”) results indicated I had, indeed, “arrived.” Between training for a marathon and the weight lifting I did, I was at 14.5% body fat. I was fitter than I had ever been! Excited to help others experience victory, too, I interviewed to work for Weight Watchers as a meeting leader. At my final interview, I was told that I didn’t qualify because of a policy that, in order to work for WW, I would have to lose more weight to fit in their BMI charts. (My doctor approved weight wasn’t acceptable. She didn’t want me to lose more…) Had I gotten even to WW’s highest acceptable weight, I would have been a mere 11% body fat–a number often associated with women who struggle with anorexia!
At that point, I was so disappointed with dieting. That was THE LAST straw for me.
During all of these many dieting years–back before blogging existed–whatever diet and exercise frenzy I was in, I waxed eloquent for a few paragraphs, slapped a bible verse on it, sending the resultant “Desert Devotion” or “Bread of Life” out to an email distribution list (sort of like a Yahoo group).
My first exposure to “mindful eating,” was in the late 90s. It was when I was at my fittest externally, but most wretched internally. I took my 14.5% body fat self to a support group meeting. The other ladies, unaware of my ever-changing weight history or my current obsession, encouraged me that I didn’t need to be there. Oh! I SO needed to lose the ball and chain that were strangling my heart!
Shortly after, an overuse injury sidelined me (I trained too much too soon for two marathons). I abruptly stopped running 40 miles each week, while continuing to eat like a runner! Thus began the inevitable leap back up into the “Big and Beautiful” clothing store sizes.
An online friend shared the book, Thin Again, by Arthur and Judy Halliday (now called Hunger Within). This book opened my eyes to the “silent hunger” in my soul that I tried to feed with physical food. I began to write about what I was learning for my email devotions distributions list. Someone showed my devotions to Judy Halliday, who happened to need a collaborator for a new book project already under contract with Thomas Nelson Publishers. One thing led to another and I ended up working with the Hallidays for a couple of years on writing projects, including the Thin Within book and the Rebuilding God’s Temple Workbook #1.
Wow. Daily conversations with the Queen of Thin Within, herself! The founder, owner, author, workshop leader, Madame Extraordinaire! How great does it get? (I was sooooo blessed to have this time with Judy Halliday and she continues to be a dear mentor and friend.)
After all of that, you would think that I would have been at my “natural, God-given size,” but I was far from it. The upward weight leap after my post-WW overuse injury continued. On and off over the next 5 years, I “released” and “grabbed a hold” of ten pounds, or two sizes, or twenty-five pounds, or one size until, in spite of my experience with the Hallidays, my knowledge of God’s Word and the Thin Within principles, I was twice the woman I once was. (Well, not quite.) But once again I had almost 100 extra pounds on my frame.
It wasn’t until November of 2006 that a switch flipped. I grew a few brain cells and engaged at least one. I strung together enough choices to begin to see victory over the stronghold of over-eating. Baby step by baby step I made one choice in the moment upon another choice in the moment to obey what God said to do. God really WAS doing a new thing. This time, it was a new new thing!
I launched the God is Doing a New Thing blog and began to chronicle my anticipated journey from 250 pounds down to whatever size God had in mind for me. I recorded the lessons learned along the way. (The blog was integrated with the Thin Within site in January of 2014 so you can still find the entire story in the blog archives.)
It took LONG enough! I am convinced that there is no one on this planet as hard-hearted and stiff-necked as me.
So what made the difference? What moved me from knowing and not living what I knew to finally kicking it in to gear?
- Practicing gratitude…daily. It keeps me in a humble place where I am less likely to grab for my food, my will, my way.
- Practicing praise…daily. Exalting God instead of self like I do when I grab for more food than I need.
- Walking in forgiveness. Much of my eating was a product of the abuse from my childhood. Forgiving each and every offense, was vital!
- Getting back on the horse when I fall off. No wallowing around on the ground.
- Knowing that Failure is a Teacher, learning from my mistakes. The observation and correction tool is indispensable.
- Renewing my Mind (Romans 12:2) to think differently about myself, God, food, eating, and failure.
- Staying in Community
A year after I “got serious,” 100 pounds were gone. I had “arrived” again! Ta DAH!
You see, I *had* to lose one hundred pounds. HAD to.
96 wouldn’t have been enough.
Obsession struck yet again.
A couple of magazines and a book covered my story and that big ol’
1 – 0 – 0
looked so “purty.”
There was not merely a little bit of pride, too.
The media coverage was great publicity for Thin Within, but it also fed that starving animal inside me…the one that had gotten applause and stickers at the old WW meetings years before! Dormant, but living, it just needed the right prodding to rear its ugly head!
Yes, as I look back now, nothing would have been wrong with “releasing” only 90 pounds. But at the time, old habits of obsession were still alive and well. I lost 100 pounds and some of my friends were concerned that I had allowed it to go too far.
About three years after I was freed from 400 sticks of butter :-), a demon named “Menopause” possessed my body. Betrayed! “0” and “5” were no longer clear! I apparently needed a lot less food in spite of being more active! I was relieved when the demon was finally excised and my eating and size stabilized. Phew!
Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”
– Isaiah 30:21
Often through this journey God has shown me that I am so capable of turning hunger and satisfaction into a god. To whose voice will I respond? Who will have the final say? Will my body’s signals (which, I must admit, after all this time I still sense imperfectly!) or will I ask the Lord what his leading is? My heart is that I would be ever tender to His call. When he uses my body’s signals to guide me, great. But when I am uncertain what my body needs…if I am hungry or what would best fuel my body, I want to foster a heart that stops, looks, asks, listens for His leading. That is the most precious gift that Thin Within has taught me…intimacy with God. Waiting for him.
UPDATE: July 2016 Well, friends…I have continued my journey imperfectly. During 2015, I am sad to say I reverted to old coping mechanisms. I thought I never could do this after having experienced victory for the better part of 8 years. It began with a health crisis in 2014 causing me to lose an unhealthy amount of weight. Doctors urged me to gain weight, and pride began to flourish (weird, I know). Since I couldn’t eat without pain for the last six months of 2014, I began to think about “What I will eat when I finally feel better again…” In essence, I was not renewing my mind. By allowing thoughts and fantasies about food to go unrestrained, it was like I was undoing the renewing I had done previously. Truly, I discovered just how powerful the continued renewing of my mind is, even when you think you have things figured out. Right now, I don’t know for sure how much I weigh (the scale has never been much of a friend), but I know the pants that I have worn since 2007 don’t fit. I have begun the challenging process of trying to regain the footing I lost while releasing the weight I have regained and never thought I would see again!
I am thankful the Lord is patient with me. Extending appropriate grace (instead of “greasy grace) to myself has been the challenge. The last two years have been overwhelmingly challenging and I haven’t handled the trials very well. I have had to recover from losing the use of my legs (and thankfully have almost fully recovered!), healed after a spinal surgery, dealt with my husband leaving after 30 years of marriage (while I was yet regaining my mobility and had to manage the needs on the ranch without him), coped with his return home nine months later after I discovered he had been having an affair, worked diligently on reconciliation in our marriage…which was most recently followed by his announcement in June that it was time to file for divorce…well, I think I understand why my eating has been a bit out of whack.
Now, I am earnestly applying (with renewed zeal) the very tools that I encourage my clients and classes to use. I know they work. God intends to use these circumstances to refine me. I have sabotaged that a bit by mis-using food and by remaining in denial about it for far too long. I am back on the horse again, my friends!
How About You?
Can you identify with my crazy up and down weight loss/weight gain/ weight loss history? Does the thought of having all that drama stop appeal to you? Which of the seven principles that I have shared that made the difference for me are you willing to apply? When? Do you have a tendency to turn 0 and 5 into an idol?