I remember the first time I became conscious about my weight. I was about 10 years old and I was spending the day at the public swimming pool. I had a dark green 1-piece bathing suit that wasn’t anything special, but I thought the color was pretty and matched my tanned skin and sun-bleached hair perfectly. I was climbing out of the water, when a girl around my age approached me and asked if I was pregnant. I was so confused why she would ask me that and responded with, “Well, no. I’m only 10.” She walked off with her friends giggling. Later, it sunk in and I understood. From then on I became more self-conscious and aware of how other bodies looked and how mine differed. It even got to the point where I was embarrassed to use the public restroom, because I thought if you could hear your pee hit the water, it meant you were overweight and didn’t sit low enough in the toilet. I started to borrow my mom’s shirts to wear everywhere, because they were big on me and made me feel smaller. My mom would buy these women’s magazines and after she was done, I would scan them for the diet and exercise ideas.
When I was 13, I made a little jar with pieces of paper that had actions on them. “Run up and down the stairs 15 times.” “Do 50 sit ups.” “Do 50 jumping jacks.” Anytime I was hungry, I would draw a piece of paper and do whatever it said instead. I didn’t not eat, but I was essentially punishing myself for feeling hungry.
When I was 15, I was having severe migraines and one of the side affects of the medicine I was taking for them was drastic weight loss. I lost 50 lbs. in 3 months and everyone noticed and complimented me. I felt good. I felt accomplished. I felt worth something. Of course, when I quit taking the medicine, it all came back and I felt like a failure. I remember asking my mom a year or so later, if she thought they’d prescribe the medicine to me again. What I didn’t tell her was that I wanted it solely to lose weight.
When I was 18, I was beyond frustrated and just didn’t understand what my problem was. I would pray every morning a quick prayer that I would make good decisions on what to eat for the day. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. The problem was I didn’t really know what a good decision was. I’d order a grilled chicken sandwich, instead of a crispy. I’d buy high fiber oatmeal that gave me awful stomach aches because my body wasn’t used to high amounts of fiber. I’d eat 1 Pop-Tart out of the package, instead of both. I read somewhere that eating bananas would keep you full, so I bought bananas and would eat 1 for breakfast, but then be frustrated when I was still hungry an hour later. I had no clue about anything regarding nutrition or healthy eating.
Shortly after getting married, I began my first real diet. I had heard of a calorie counting app and started counting my calories. I would try to eat the most that I could of whatever I wanted, just so long as it fit in my allotted calorie goal. I also tried walking a lot. It worked and I lost about 20 lbs. I still didn’t understand nutrition though and I would squeeze in as much dessert and unhealthy snacks as I could manage. I was losing some weight, but I wouldn’t say I was getting healthier.
We moved to Kansas City and all of that went on the backburner for a while. After Justin was diagnosed with high blood pressure, we began looking into changing our diets and read a book on clean eating by Tosca Reno. It revolutionized my way of thinking and approaching food. I began immersing myself in nutrition and learning as much as I could. We began eating ‘clean’ immediately and had major results. Justin’s blood pressure went back to normal and he lost 30 lbs. I lost 50 lbs. It was all going so well and I felt so good. Finally something that worked!
Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and I crashed and burned. I had heard a side effect of the condition was weight gain, so I decided it didn’t matter what I did anymore, I was going to gain weight anyways. I abandoned everything and just ate whatever I wanted again…and I gained 75 lbs. I was now at my highest weight ever. I was miserable. Depressed. Frustrated. Angry. I didn’t know what to do. I finally just got fed up with myself and decided I was going to eat right and take care of myself, regardless. Even if I didn’t lose weight, surely I would certainly feel better. I slowly started counting calories and eating clean again. We started hiking. Bought bikes. Adopted some dogs. And I slowly lost the weight – all 75 lbs. I was so proud of myself!
For the most part, I’ve kept it off since then. I think I’ve probably gained 10-15 lbs, but we don’t have a scale so I’m not sure. I just can’t get past this hump though and I know that the reason is purely emotional. I do well for a while, then I sabotage myself. My reasons for self-sabotage always vary, but I have them.
“I don’t deserve to lose the weight.”
“I don’t want to make someone else feel bad for not losing weight.”
“I’m not worth it.”
“It’s too hard.”
I’d done everything I could do physically, but now it was time to tackle the emotional part, only I didn’t know how.
I remember a brief interaction I had with a lady recently. She told me she had been praying that she could lose weight and felt that God told her she needed to make some changes in her diet. I just smiled politely and nodded. Honestly, it seemed kind of silly to me — the thought of praying to lose weight. There are so many bigger, more important things to be praying about. Surely weight loss should be at the bottom of the list. Surely that’s something I need to take care of myself, not something I need to bring to God. After all, it’s my fault I’m in this mess to begin with.
It wasn’t until a couple months ago that God showed me the problem was much bigger than I realized. It was me turning to food as a source of comfort, rather than Him. It was me not caring for the body that He gifted me. It was me having a negative self-image. It was me focusing too much on weight loss; idolizing it. It was me giving in to gluttony. Giving in to self-sustainment. Lacking in self-control. Worrying too much about how I looked, rather than who I was.
As I’ve been digging deep into this idea of what I eat mattering to the One who created me, I’ve been struck by 5 key reasons why it’s very important and worth seeking God over.
1: When I eat well, I feel well.
It seems like it should be common sense, but it’s easy to forget. When I’m eating excess sugar, refined carbs and refined fats I am bloated, zapped of energy and uncomfortable. I also get moody and end up feeling depressed. When I feel all of those things, it’s hard to focus on anything else. It’s hard to have the energy to go out to do things. It’s hard to want to be around people. It’s hard to care about the needs of others, because I’m so focused on myself and how I’m feeling.
If God were to call me to do something at any given moment, I want to be ready. I want to be able to say, “Yes! Let’s do this!” But if I’m feeling tired and cranky because I haven’t been fueling my body properly, I’m more likely to make up excuses. Or be totally oblivious to the call.
2: God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. We do that ourselves.
We’ve heard it said over and over again, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Or, “God might give you more than you can handle, but He’s there to carry you through it.”
I believe both of those statements to be true, but what about the things we give ourselves?
There is so much research showing the medical conditions and high risks of being obese. For me personally, diabetes and high blood pressure both run in my family. If I’m not caring for my body, I am destined to be diagnosed with these conditions as well. If I’m diagnosed with any condition related to being overweight, I am giving myself over to a lifetime of managing symptoms, medication, doctors appointments, not feeling well and possibly even an early death.
It makes me wonder…is that something God has given us or is that something we give ourselves? If I’m choosing to not take care of my body, even though I know that I will likely acquire these conditions, then it certainly has to be of my own doing.
Before we go any further, I want to clarify that I don’t think God will abandon me if I were to be diagnosed with diabetes. He’s still going to be there and He’s still going to carry me through, because that’s just who He is. However, I could make it so much easier on myself if I avoided that altogether. If I didn’t have to devote so much time, money and energy to diabetes, I could devote all of it elsewhere.
If you have a condition due to being overweight, I don’t want you to read this and feel bad about it. I’m not here trying to convict you, I’m here trying to give you things to consider. I certainly don’t have it perfected, but I have a lot on my mind and have felt the need to share it. Just pray about it, seek counsel if needed and let God lead you.
3: Time is valuable.
I have spent countless hours trying to lose weight. I research articles, nutrition, recipes and exercises. I spend lots of time planning what I’m going to eat each week and checking the nutritional count of it all. I spend an entire afternoon prepping food for the week. So. Much. Time.
Here’s the tricky part. There’s really nothing wrong with time spent on any of the above. In fact, I’d say most of it is necessary. I have to be knowledgeable and prepared if I want to succeed. The problem comes when I begin to become obsessive. When it starts to consume all of my thoughts and all of my free time. When I’m avoiding other things because I’m too busy meal prepping. When I’m too busy comparing nutritional labels in the bread aisle to notice the mom next to me trying to come up with enough spare change to be able to purchase food for the week, we have a problem. Although eating healthy and taking care of myself is important, it’s never more important than caring for someone else. I need to leave my schedule and my mind open enough to be able to notice the other ways I can be utilizing my time. It’s really all about finding the right balance. What I eat is important, but it’s not the most important.
4: God couldn’t care less if I look good in a bathing suit.
One thing I think is super important to remember is that it’s not about how I look. It doesn’t matter if I fit societies standards of beauty, if I look good in a bikini or if I make heads turn. None of those things matter to God. The only thing that matters to God is the state of my heart.
We can look back to 1 Samuel to see this is true. God had just sent Samuel to find who was to be the new king of Israel. Samuel met with Jesse and Jesse’s sons and his eyes fell on his son Eliab. 1 Samuel 16 says,
“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
If you continue the story, they end up calling David in from where he was tending sheep. David is the smallest and weakest. The least king-like. But God knew David’s heart and called David to be king.
We get so caught up on whether or not people look the part, we don’t even stop to consider the state of their heart. God doesn’t look at us like that. God knows that our earthly bodies are purely temporal. If our heart isn’t after God, it doesn’t matter what our body looks like.
This is another tricky situation that requires finding the right balance. If we eat properly and exercise regularly, our bodies will look ‘good.’ (At least according to the world’s standards.) However, that shouldn’t be our number 1 priority. If we start focusing too much on how we look, we become vain, selfish, superficial and possibly even lustful. All of those things contribute to a heart that is broken, not a heart that is after God. The focus needs to be on becoming healthy and able to serve God, not becoming attractive.
5: Where God wants to take us is better than where we are currently.
When I first started trying to overcome my personal issues with emotional eating, I felt I was in a pretty bad spot. Anywhere was better than where I was currently. Once God started to move, I was excited and ready to go along.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence I happened to be reading Exodus & Numbers at the time. The Israelites had been enslaved to Egypt for over 400 years and were desperate to be free. God called Moses and Aaron to free them and they did. (Loads of miracles and power displayed throughout the whole process.) The Israelites left Egypt and the ENTIRE way they’re complaining. “We don’t have water. At least we had water in Egypt.” *God provides water* “We don’t have food. At least there was food in Egypt.” *God provides food* “This food isn’t as good as the food we had in Egypt. At least we had meat in Egypt.” *God resolves to provide so much meat that it comes out of their nostrils and they get sick of it* (True story. Numbers 11:20) “We’re going to die out here. We could’ve just died in Egypt.” *God keeps them safe and alive*
Over and over and over again, the Israelites are proclaiming that they were better off where they came from. Over and over and over again, God provided their needs. While reading this, I just kept laughing to myself. “How can they not understand? God promised to take them somewhere better. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride already!”
A week into my efforts, I hit a wall. I was frustrated, sad, angry, anxious, all of the above. I don’t remember exactly what it was causing it at the time, but it made me want to give up. I thought to myself, “This isn’t worth it. I was fine how I was.” And immediately I thought of the Israelites. Now, I know it’s a stretch to compare 400 years of enslavement and being made free to my issues with food and emotions. But there are some lessons to be learned. Where God is taking me is better than where I was. Always. Forever. It’s better. I know that, I believe that, I want that. But then it gets hard and I get uncomfortable and I want to quit. I remember talking to Justin about it and how I was having so much trouble getting past this. His super wise response? “You don’t want it bad enough. You think you do, but you don’t. You’re just comfortable how you are right now.” He was so right. I thought I wanted it, but not bad enough to work for it. Not bad enough to get uncomfortable for it. Where God was taking the Israelites WAS better than where they were. But the journey was hard and long. The journey wasn’t for nothing though. I believe the journey was so hard and so long because God was showing the Israelites just how much they could trust Him. He was giving them space to grow and understand Him. As they advanced in their journey, they would be able to look back and see all of the places where God worked.
We have to trust the journey, not just the destination. We have to trust that whatever gets thrown at us while we travel is meant to help us grow and understand what God is doing in us and for us.
I’ve been working my way through a book called Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. It’s been good and I recommend it, if this is something you also struggle with. One of the things she said in this book that has really stuck with me is, “You can’t fix a spiritual problem with a physical solution.”
On the surface, my inability to take care of myself and be healthy looks like a physical problem. However, if it were truly a physical problem, then I’d already have it taken care of. I know all of the steps to take: What to eat, what not to eat, how much to exercise, etc. But for me, this is spiritual. This is lack of self-control. Selfishness. Idolatry. Impatience. Not trusting God. Not turning to God to sustain me. Trying to control things on my own. This is all so much deeper than just surface level. I’ve already done all that I can on my own. I’ve already prayed about it and haven’t miraculously lost weight. This tells me that now it’s time for God and I to work together…how it should’ve been from the start.
I’m a long ways from where I want/need to be, but that’s alright. This is a journey. I don’t expect it to be perfect from here, but that’s alright. This is a journey. I need the bumps and hiccups to learn.
We’ve been training our dogs lately. They’re very reactive to things and one specifically reacts by barking and lunging. We used to avoid anything that could trigger her and keep her in a bubble. Through training, we’ve learned how to communicate to her that it’s ok; she doesn’t need to react because we’ll take care of her. However, in order for her to understand that, she has to be presented with her triggers. We have to seek out other people and other dogs for her to practice on. She still reacts quite a bit, but she’s starting to understand that she can just trust us. It’s not just her job to protect us, we’re also here to protect her. If we kept her bubbled in all the time and avoided anything that could set her off, she’ll never grow. She’ll always be a scared, anxious dog who reacts fearfully to anything that could potentially harm her. She’ll have no confidence.
I see a lot of that in my journey. I want to just avoid anything that can cause me to slip up or trigger a bad reaction from me. But I can’t. I need to grow. I need to trust that God will take care of me. I need to not be scared or anxious. I need to be confident in Him. In order to do that, I need to work through the issues that have caused me problems for so long.
I leave you with this.
2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
If we were to stop living in the spirit of fear that we have given ourselves and start living in the spirit of power, love and self-control that God has given us, imagine how much more we could accomplish. How much happier we would be.
I took this picture a few nights ago and as it turns out, it fits the message beautifully. The rolling field and beautiful sunset are within reach, if only we can rid ourselves of the barbed wire that holds us back.