Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

A frustrated dieter for years, you are finally taking the plunge! You have decided to give  Thin Within a try. You are aware that the “freedom phase” — the beginning stage of Thin Within where you are encouraged to set aside all  dieting laws and rules — is likely to be very challenging for you. You are aware at every turn that eating whatever you feel like eating can be tricky. It has been so long since you have enjoyed chocolate guilt-free, for instance. Regular dressing on your salad instead of fat-free has been unheard of until now. The idea sounds wonderful, but it is extremely frightening to trust this process.

You begin the day tentatively…some toast, an egg, and a bit of yogurt. You are hungry and the food actually tastes good…well, all except the toast–you know it would taste better with some butter, or at least some jelly, but you toss it out instead of risk it. You stop eating when you are no longer hungry and head into the day.

A few hours later, you sense hunger approaching. You finish the meeting with a co-worker and by the time you can break for lunch you are famished. Again, aware that you are allowed great freedom in your food selections, you nevertheless, “play it safe” with a salad at lunch. You want to reach for the regular salad dressing, but guilt overwhelms you. You are just positive that you need to be careful about things like this if you are to lose weight.

You pick up the kids and their friends after school.  It’s the last day of class and they are in a celebratory mood! School is out for summer! They ask if you will take them by the grocery store to get the fixings for hot fudge sundaes. One thing these kids are is naturally thin eaters! Upon arriving home, they scoop themselves modest portions of ice cream, heat up some hot fudge in the microwave, topping the masterpieces with a smidgen of whipped cream, sliced almonds, and chocolate sprinkles. After enjoying conversation and their snacks around the dining table, they head to the TV room for a much-deserved movie.

Now, you find yourself alone in the kitchen. The refrigerator and freezer with aaaaalll those hot fudge sundae fixings stands there as if to say, “What are you going to do?” Your stomach is clearly empty–and no small wonder, when you consider what you have eaten today. The internal battle commences. Will you enjoy some ice cream? Or will you play it safe?

Prayerfully taking what feels like a large leap of faith, you scoop yourself a modest portion of ice cream, drizzle a tablespoon (or so) of hot fudge over it and forego the whipped cream and almonds altogether. Oh! Dare you really EAT this? Sure, you are hungry…but how on EARTH can you justify eating this? It is SO decadent and it really can’t be ok. Making a quick mental calculation for the premium ice cream and the hot fudge, you are just positive that this is an easy 350 calories if not closer to 500. “Surely, Thin Within can’t teach that I am not supposed to do the math!” You wonder how you could possibly lose any weight if you eat ice cream and hot fudge. You are just sure you need to learn to say NO to yourself. You are reminded of what the leader at your Thin Within class said only the night before about being willing, when you are hungry, to select foods you will enjoy. You know you would LOVE to have this sundae. So, you sit down, and try desperately to calm your mind.

You dig your spoon into the creamy ambrosia as hot fudge drips off the edge of the spoon. You savor the flavors slowly while an internal battle continues to rage. You can’t shake the guilt.  “I can’t eat this! This is wrong! If I am going to do the right thing, I can’t eat this! This is so bad for me! I am abusing my body when I eat like this! I am such a failure. This can’t be ok for me–maybe for others, but not for me.”

You force yourself to finish eating the small sundae anyhow–after all, this is “freedom!”  (“Thin Within says so!”) You, however, are plagued by guilt. It is a tremendous load on your shoulders. Even while you chastise yourself, something flips a switch inside of you. “That’s it! I have blown it! It’s over with now. I may as well GO for it!” Guilt guilt guilt and more guilt.

You get an edge–an attitude–you open the freezer door. Reaching for the ice cream you dig out a larger second portion and heat up twice as much hot fudge as the first time. This time, you heap a generous portion of whipped cream all over it, smothering it as if trying to smother your own guilt. Sitting down to watch an afternoon TV show while you eat you mindlessly inhale the second portion of ice cream. You find yourself back in the kitchen taking a spoon to the hot fudge. You hear the kids coming, so you steal away to the bathroom, hot fudge container and spoon in hand where no one will see….

You find yourself in the bathroom and, devastated, you sentence yourself, “I will never break free. I have to stop eating foods that trigger me!”

New Thin Within participants often share incidents such as this one. They explain that chocolate, bread, pasta, etc., “triggers” a response that keeps them stuck eating for the rest of the day once they have indulged in something not formerly on their “allowed foods” lists.

But I wonder…is it the actual food that does the triggering? Or could it, perhaps, be the thought that you are eating something that you are not supposed to be eating? Perhaps it is important to renew your mind about food before you eat it. If you haven’t informed your conscience and renewed your mind about the food, then no matter how permissible the food may be from God’s perspective, it isn’t from yours. Romans 14:23 says you may be condemned because you are defying your conscience. Maybe you need to inform your conscience.

But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat,

because their eating is not from faith;

and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Romans 14:23

So let’s inform your conscience just a bit together. Reason with me for just a moment.

Let’s say that you have a choice to eat either a salad with low-fat dressing or a half sandwich with chicken, cheese, and veggies.

There is no doubt that the salad has less calories than the half sandwich.

You feel compelled that choosing the lower calorie option is the better choice, even though you are learning how to eat the Thin Within way.

Consider for a moment, though: What are calories? They are fuel. So the salad offers less fuel than the half sandwich. What this basically means is that while you may be taking in fewer calories in the salad, you will run out of fuel sooner…and get hungry sooner, when you will then have to make another choice about what to eat when hungry or choose to deprive yourself when you are hungry. The person who eats the half sandwich may be choosing the option that is higher in calories…which simply means it has more fuel to offer. The way our bodies run, that just means that she won’t need more fuel quite so soon if she is eating according to physical hunger and satisfaction. She won’t be signaled that she is hungry quite as soon. 

You see, there really is no benefit to eating the item that is less calorie dense when you follow the Thin Within approach.

When I was releasing 100 pounds using the Thin Within principles, I never ate a single salad (I don’t like vegetables). Instead, I ate pizza, desserts, french fries (from McDonalds…I know, this is appalling to many :-)!), etc. I honestly lost all my weight eating this way. When I tell people that, they often say “You must have exercised a lot.” Not while I was still releasing the weight I didn’t. I didn’t do much exercising in addition to normal life (with kids, horses and dogs) until much later, after I had released the weight.

But because I ate these foods according to physical hunger and satisfaction, it meant that I ate small portions and these foods, because they are calorie–FUEL–rich, sustained me. I didn’t need to eat very frequently or very large portions at all.

Some might feel that by eating those foods that are so high in salt and fat that my cholesterol would go flying off the charts. Consider with me again: When we are concerned about these things, it isn’t the thing (like fat) itself that causes these problems in our bodies. Just like it isn’t sugar itself. It is the quantity. When you eat the small amounts of ANY of the foods that you desire, you will not end up with high cholesterol or diabetes (at least it isn’t likely) or any of the other health problems that so many of us relate to eating “too much of the wrong thing.” Portions served in restaurants are HUGE. You can enjoy a bit of any food on the planet and discover that it doesn’t take much to satisfy you AND it will not cause your blood pressure to spike, cholesterol to go up or your arteries to clog.

Back to our triggering example that we began with: I believe that the reason many of us are “triggered” as we try to break free from dieting is because we haven’t informed our conscience about all of these things. We haven’t explained to our brains the truth about food.

The Truth is: No food is more righteous than any other.

Sure, it is best to have a variety of foods with a variety of nutrients–something Thin Within calls “beneficial foods,” but having steamed broccoli instead of chips and salsa doesn’t make someone a better person, a godlier Christian, or a skinnier person either. The key is why we what we eat, when we eat what we eat, and how much we eat. In the past, we were told “You are what you eat.” That simply isn’t true.

My husband and I go out to breakfast every so often at McDonalds. I get the sausage biscuit. He gets the yogurt and fruit parfait. The sausage biscuit sustains me for four hours–even when I play two hours of tennis. The yogurt holds Bob about two hours, as he sits at a desk at work. Which choice is better? 🙂 (Gosh, I am spoiled, aren’t I?)

Do you see what I mean?

So inform your conscience about food. See if doing so doesn’t eliminate any “triggering” behavior. I really believe it isn’t the food at all. It is the false guilt that kicks in when we think we have “blown it” and want to quit.

When you inform your conscience that you can enjoy the hot fudge sundae with freedom between the godly boundaries of physical hunger and satisfaction, I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that you won’t go binge crazy and gobble down another hefty bowl of ice cream *or* find yourself hiding out in the bathroom with the hot fudge and a spoon.

What do you think? Do you need to inform your conscience about food and give yourself a chance to truly enjoy the freedom you have? What might that look like for you? Can you create a list of true statements about food and use it to renew your mind about food?