Thursday, June 21, 2012

Patience and Discipline: My two least favorite words!

Some of you may know, but I've been trying to eat healthier and exercise for the last eight weeks. I've said goodbye to high-starch foods (breads, grains, wheat, flour, etc.) and most dairy (milk, sour cream, cheese). My motivations for this change are numerous--from health reasons to (let's be honest) my own personal vanity, but the real truth is that it's just something I need to do and have needed to do for a while. The problem, I've found, is that I often approach losing weight with the wrong mentality--and usually, my best motivation is competition (see, e.g., my own attempts in our biggest loser contest last year).

Because of that--and because of a lot of other unhealthy reasons (i.e. I love food), my successes always later end in failure, which is to say, I typically gain back whatever I lost and usually plus some. I feel like I've been in this pattern since I graduated from college in 2007. The reality is I've always had a problem with eating right, but it never affected me because I worked out enough to balance the bad eating habits. Throw in being newly married and working on a PhD, and suddenly my eating habits have unfortunate consequences.

What I've come to learn is this: I don't have a healthy (or godly) approach to how or what I eat. And before you roll your eyes and say God doesn't care what we eat, I recommend that you read the book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. I stumbled on this book about two weeks into my diet changes--a serendipitous discovery that was, no doubt, God-ordained. Lysa's words were exactly what I needed, at the exact moment I needed them. Read it! It's truly eye-opening.

Anyway--back to what I've learned. The reason diets don't work for me is because they only reinforce my unhealthy approach to food, a system of rewards and punishments. Chips and queso, a reward. Carrot sticks and celery, a punishment. Inevitably, I eat "punishment" food and lose weight. Then satisfied with my changes, I satisfy myself with reward food. It's really a vicious cycle. And at the heart of it is this--I was made with a longing to be satisfied, but food should never be so important to me that it controls my thoughts, longings, or satisfactions.

As silly as it seems to say that food controlled my thoughts, longings, or satisfactions, it's true. It did. I could get a craving for chips and queso or for Whataburger's fries or pizza (or whatever), and I really felt like I had to have it. Whatever it was, it needed to be my lunch or my dinner in the near future--and the craving wouldn't be satisfied until I was full. Or stuffed, rather.

Sadly, I'd started to learn this lesson on self-control last May, but I obviously needed some re-teaching. And this time, I needed to get to the root: What do I really crave? What satisfies me? Is God really sufficient? Does He fulfill me?

It's been a good journey, though not always easy. I was thinking about Hitch today--that scene when he is having the allergic reaction to shellfish, and he starts drinking the Benedryl syrup and yelling for it to start working. Here's the scene:


I think I feel this way sometimes; I especially did at first. I put in the effort, but didn't see the results. And even now, although I've lost 14 pounds, I still have a ways to go to get to my "goal" weight. If I focus on how far I am from where I want to be, then I can easily get discouraged. But, it takes time. More importantly, though, having read Lysa's book, I am learning that it's not really about reaching the goal weight. If I'm not satisfied with Him at Xlbs, then I won't be satisfied with Him at Ylbs, either. I've got to change the root of my desires.

And the thing with change--whether we're talking about swelling from an allergic reaction, fitting into a new size pair of jeans, or practicing healthy (and godly) attitudes toward food--is that change takes time. And time means patience. And patience means discipline.

"'Everything is permissible for me,' but not everything is beneficial... I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor 6:12).


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