And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:32

Monday, April 27, 2009

Does It Ever Get Easy?

Do you ever wonder if you’ll struggle with food for the rest of your life? I know I used to feel like that. Eating seemed to be that one thing in life I would never be able to get a handle on. I didn’t control food—it controlled me.

I know many of you who read this blog feel the same way I used to feel. You wonder if you’ll ever get over it, and you’re tired of the battle. It’s hard to keep pressing on when you fail time after time after time.

Of course, Monday mornings are always hopeful. That’s the traditional day to start the new program, right? We eat all weekend with the idea that we’ll be good “starting Monday.”

But Monday never lasts. By Thursday or Friday (if we last that long), it’s back to the same old story—breaking our boundaries, feeling discouraged, and wanting to give up.

Here’s the interesting thing. Since we have a tendency to handle life’s problems with food, our natural inclination is to handle the problem of trying to stick to our eating boundaries the same way. When it’s hard, we eat! Of course, that breaks the boundaries and leads to the feeling that we’ll never get over the problem.

So what’s the answer? Are we stuck in an endless circle of failure and discouragement? No, a thousand times no! The answer is God. He can set us free from anything. He’s the Creator of the universe. He can move mountains. Of course, He can set us free from emotional eating.

What we need to do is study His Word to find out how He sets people free. What does God use to change behavior? Let’s look at Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. When He prayed this prayer, He knew He wouldn’t be around much longer, and He was praying for the ones He was leaving behind.

In John 17:15 Jesus is telling the Father, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” This could also be translated “keep them out of evil.”

He goes on to say how this is accomplished in verse 17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” The Greek word for “in” that’s used here has an essence of “by means of.” We are sanctified and kept from evil by means of the truth.

In other words, we don’t change our behavior by getting up Monday morning and saying, “This week is going to be different! This week I’m going to stick with my plan!” No, we’re changed by the truth.

Remember, it’s not about the boundaries. It’s not about the plan. It’s about truth—and truth comes from God and His Word.

Food no longer controls me, but it’s not because of any brilliant displays of self-control and determination on my part. It was an incredibly difficult battle to change the way I responded to life. It often felt like I was limping along barely able to make progress.

When I felt that old urge to pull myself up by the bootstraps and “wait ‘til Monday,” I had to tell myself, “No, that’s not the way it works. It’s the truth that will set me free. I need to spend more time with God today. I need to cling to His word. I need to carry my thoughts captive to Him.” And that’s what set me free.

It’s also what keeps me free. When I feel tempted to go back to my old ways, I pull out my trusty lie-truth charts and start filling them out again. As I write the truth, I see my desires change before my eyes.

The Bible is a life-changing, joy-giving book. I’m amazed by its brilliance and transformed by it’s wisdom. This Monday morning, I encourage you to look for the solution to emotional eating in its pages—and not in another program!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cinnamon Bread and Chocolate Clusters

Today I want to walk you through an actual journaling situation. When I first started working on eating with lifelong boundaries, I tried to journal whenever I broke the boundaries—or at least before I went to bed that night.

Now that following the boundaries is more habitual, I don’t journal much even if I do break the boundaries. The thing that makes me pull out my lie-truth chart again is when I’ve broken my boundaries and feel like there’s a good chance I’ll break them again the next day. I would guess this happens maybe once or twice a month. (It used to happen all the time, so I’m making progress!)

Since this happened to me today, I thought I’d show you how journaling works in a real-life situation. First I’ll tell you what I ate today and then show you what I journaled about.

Breakfast: ½ chicken sandwich, 1/3 cup yogurt with berries
Lunch: 1 chicken sandwich, small bowl applesauce
Snack: An incredibly yummy dark chocolate, almond, caramel cluster that came in the mail today from a friend.
Supper: Three pieces cinnamon bread (made by my daughter), small ham and cheese omelet, celery
Snack: strawberry orange smoothie (about 6 oz.)

My boundaries are three meals and one snack so, technically, the only time I broke my boundaries today was with the smoothie. However, I hadn’t planned on eating the chocolate for a snack. I was planning on having a piece of cinnamon bread when it came out of the oven and another for supper - but when I opened the envelope with that yummy chocolate cluster I couldn’t resist, and I ate it right away.

So what did I journal about? The chocolate and the third piece of cinnamon bread. Even though neither one was a technical breaking of the boundaries, both of them were indulgent eating occasions, and I knew I would be facing more temptation tomorrow (lunch with friends and more cinnamon bread in the house). I knew I needed to bring my thoughts captive to Christ tonight if I wanted to glorify Him in my eating tomorrow.

Let me show you how I journaled it:

Chocolate: 1. I have to have this right now because it looks so good.
Truth: I have to go truth journal or pray Scripture or get someone to hide this right now because it looks so good, and it will be better for me not to have it.

Cinnamon bread: 1. I should have one more piece of cinnamon bread. 2. It’s so good it’s worth having one more. 3. It’s okay to have three (it’s just one more piece, after all).

1. I should stick to my original plan. When I break my boundaries, I almost always end up eating more than I want to eat. I can never get enough cinnamon bread to satisfy me in this situation. I’ll always want more (unless I eat enough to get sick, of course). Since I’ll always want more, I should stop not when I’ve had enough (because that will never happen), but when it’s a reasonable amount.** 2. It’s never good enough to stuff myself and feel uncomfortable for! 3. Although it’s okay to have three pieces, it’s not wise to have three pieces.

**Note: There are many times when I do feel satisfied with a small amount of a sweet, but not when I’m in an indulgent mood like I was at dinner!

Now here’s the funny thing—I was doing the truth journaling while I was drinking the smoothie, and you know what? As I was writing, I was thinking oh, it’s never good enough to stuff myself; I don’t think I’ll have the rest of this smoothie because I don’t want to feel stuffed. And then I gave the rest of the smoothie to my son (don’t worry, he’s a healthy eater!).

I am now ready to go to bed, and I’m not worrying about breaking my boundaries tomorrow. There’s still cinnamon bread in the house, and I don’t even want a piece. God has used the truth to take away my wrong desires and replace them with holy desires. It was worth truth journaling tonight.

P.S. Did you notice I didn't condemn myself for breaking my boundaries or say things like, "I can never stick to this"? The only reason I didn't say those things to myself, is because I don't actually believe those things anymore. And the only reason I don't believe them anymore is because I truth journaled thoughts like that so many times in the beginning that the truth is ground into my head!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

When To-Do Lists Drive You to the Refrigerator

I had a hard time sticking to my boundaries yesterday. It was one of those days when I felt like just sitting by the fire with a bowl of ice cream in my lap and a book in my hand doing nothing. Now if this had been just a fluke day in my otherwise diligent life, it wouldn’t be a big deal. The problem is that I often feel like sitting in front of the fire doing nothing. I’m a lazy person by nature.

Now I suppose I could say, “Well, that’s just the way I am. Besides, there’s nothing that really needs to get done today.” But what if I were to say that day after day after day? What would my life look like?

I know what it would look like, because I’ve lived it. You might think it would be a fun, relaxing life, but it really isn’t. What it is is a series of last-minute “oh no – I need to get this done today!” moments. It’s a feeling of being overwhelmed and out-of-control—feeling like you’ll never catch up with life.

Does God really want me to live my life like this? I don’t think so. I know that my laziness keeps me from doing things He wants me to do, so I’m working on bringing this area of my life captive to Christ.

Instead of sitting all day by the fire yesterday, I did this. First, I pulled out my procrastination verses and prayed through them. Then I truth journaled about my list (It would be more fun sitting and eating by the fire all day than working, I don’t feel like working so I shouldn’t, idle time is the best time, etc.), and finally I broke my jobs into smaller more manageable tasks and got to work.

Now you might say, “That’s crazy—all that work just to make yourself work? Why not just force yourself to do it?” Here’s the answer. If I just force myself to do it (which I’m not good at anyway), I miss the opportunity to renew my mind and change the way I think about work.

It took a lot of effort yesterday to carry my thoughts captive to Christ through truth journaling and praying Scripture. It would have been much easier just to sit by the fire and eat ice cream with the plan of “doing better tomorrow.” It would have been much easier to just try and force myself to do the work. It would have been much easier to give up and say, “I’ll never change.”

But do I really want what’s easy? Or do I want to please God? I can’t do both at the same time in this situation.

If I continue to renew my mind when I feel like procrastinating, one day I’ll have victory over this area of my life. I’ll probably never be a “let’s get it done” sort of person, but as God changes the way I think about work, I'll actually be more inclined to "get it done now" rather than waiting until later.

One day my first reaction will be to do the list—not head for the refrigerator. Taking the time to renew my mind now will lead to a weight loss later - because I won’t be eating to procrastinate anymore.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Lies that make us cave into the social pressure to eat

Hi, everyone! I said I’d try to write another post this week about the lies you might believe in a situation where you’re feeling pressured to overeat. Here it is—I hope it will help those of you who struggle in these situations.

1. I need to please (my mom, my family, my friends, etc.).
I need to please my Father—and I can't always please Him and others at the same time.

2. If I don’t eat (as much as they expect me to eat), they’ll be mad at me.
If I do eat, I’ll be mad at me.

3. They’ll ridicule me if I don’t eat.
I so rarely get the chance to suffer because I'm doing the right thing (usually I'm suffering because of my sin), that I'll take that as an honor if they ridicule me.

4. They’ll think I’m (uppity, self-righteous, judgmental, etc.).
God knows my heart, but it’s inevitable that others will sometimes misunderstand me and judge me. This is difficult and sad, but I need to press on anyway and do what God’s called me to do. I’ll have to spend some time with God before the get-together so I can love the people there with a pure heart, and not a defensive heart.

5. I’ll end up gaining my weight back and then they’ll ridicule me.
If I end up gaining my weight back, God will help me through it. He can use all things for His purposes.

6. They think I’m dumb for wanting to change my eating habits.
It’s okay if they think I’m dumb, but that may not even be the case. It's possible they feel threatened that I'm changing and would feel more comfortable if I didn't.

7. I won’t fit in if I don’t eat as much as they do.
This might be the price I have to pay for doing the Father’s will, but I'm guessing they'll love me even if they think I'm strange. I need to stop worrying about what they think and focus on loving them regardless of what they think.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Dark Side of Camaraderie

When I was a teenager, my sister and I came up with a brilliant diet idea. We would eat whatever we wanted, but every three days we’d give up a whole food category and not eat it for the rest of the diet. We figured we wouldn’t have to monitor how much we eat, because there wouldn’t be much to eat anyway after a few weeks.

Now here’s the really brilliant part of our plan—every time we gave up a new category (that would be every three days), we would go out the night before and eat one last treat from that category.

Now you might be thinking “That doesn’t seem very smart to give up basic food groups,” and you would be right, of course, except for the fact that we weren’t giving up basic food groups.

No, what we were giving up was basic dessert groups: cakes—cookies—pastries—pies . . . (did I mention what a fun diet it was?).

Well, as you might have guessed, it wasn’t a very successful one. If I remember right, we lasted about two weeks—right up until the day we gave up our last food group: ice cream. By that time we could see the diet was going to get boring awfully fast, and we ended it. I’m afraid we didn’t lose much weight (actually I think we gained), but we did have a lot of fun.

There’s a sense of camaraderie that comes with eating together, isn’t there? In fact, I’ve always wondered if that’s not why God designed our bodies to need food—so it would be an opportunity for us to gather together in fellowship around a meal, enjoying the food and each other.

But there’s also a dark side to camaraderie—if what we’re enjoying together isn’t good for us, we might actually be hurting each other, all in the name of fun.

I had a woman write me this week, wondering if I would write a blog about the social pressures of eating. She was worried about attending the family Easter gathering and how she would be able to handle the day without eating too much. Her mom is an emotional eater and many of her family members are also. Listen to what she has to say:

My mom doesn't pressure me to eat but I automatically (auto-pilot) do . . . I’ll hear several family members complain about being fat, but food is their life, so they will go back and forth all afternoon and eat when they are stuffed. It's not overt pressure—it’s subtle, like it’s expected. If you don't eat like that, you are kind of an outcast.

Have you ever experienced this before—the pressure to eat because everyone around you is eating? Sometimes it comes from within—our desire to please or be part of the crowd—but often it comes from the outside. We’ve probably all experienced others saying things like this: “Oh, come on, one cookie won’t hurt—don’t be such a killjoy,” or “You’re no fun anymore—I liked you better the old way.”

These remarks not only hurt, they make it hard to maintain our fragile self-control. After all, we want to eat—we know it would be fun to sit there and eat whatever we want to eat—and even more than that, we want to fit in. It’s hard being the odd man out.

So what do we do? How do you handle situations like these? All I can suggest is that you prepare for them beforehand so you have the mind of Christ before you walk into the situation.

Remember that eating is more than just eating for the emotional eater. It’s a spiritual issue. God doesn’t want us to be controlled by anything but Him—and we’re much happier when He’s the one controlling us.

Eating the way God wants us to eat in a situation like this is an act of dying to self—dying to the desire to have others think well of us, dying to the desire to fit in, and dying to the desire to have fun with them and eat as much as we want.

Easter itself reminds us of how we're to live our lives. Listen to Hebrews 12:2: Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus was the ultimate example of dying to self.

The focus of His life was to do the Father’s will, and He wants that to be the focus of our lives as well. Just as Jesus couldn’t do that without dying to self, we can’t either. So often in life we have to make a choice: Should I indulge my desires, or should I do the Father’s will? Should I do what others want me to do (so I don’t get condemned, so I don’t hurt their feelings, so I fit in, etc.), or should I do the Father’s will?

It still takes me by surprise sometimes when God’s Word reminds me that I have to suffer for His sake—because the culture tells me I shouldn’t have to suffer.

When the world is crying out, “What’s wrong with eating?? Have another lemon bar!” (that’s what it was saying to me yesterday), it doesn’t seem necessary to die to self. That’s why we need to spend so much time in the Word—so we remember the truth and have the power to act on it.

If you’re going into a difficult situation this Easter, it would be helpful to spend some time praying and thinking over these things before you go to your gathering. Another way you can prepare is to go over the lies you believe about the food itself.

I wrote a blog about this last November called The Lies of Thanksgiving. You should be able to find it by looking over on the left of this blog at the labels and clicking on the holidays link (one of these days I will learn how to actually put links in this blog, but I’m not there yet!).

It will help you even more if you write down those lies on a piece of paper and write out your own truth before you look at what I wrote—you’ll internalize it much more if you’re the one doing the thinking.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful Resurrection Sunday—because He lives, we have the power to be set free from our strongholds. Let’s pray for each other as we navigate another week filled with temptation.

P.S. I’ll try to write another post before Easter about the lies you might believe in a situation where you’re feeling pressured to eat.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rules (Part Two): The Lies We Believe About Rules

1. I don’t like rules (and that’s a good reason not to have any).
Truth: If I only did the things in life I liked to do, my house would be so messy I’d hate living in it, my kids would be so spoiled I wouldn’t enjoy spending time with them, and I’d probably be writing this blog from my jail cell (because I really can’t stand doing my income taxes). Often it’s doing what I don’t want to do that that enables me to live the life I do want to live.

2. The rules make me want to eat.
Truth: My self-indulgent nature makes me want to eat. The rules are just a convenient scapegoat.

3. It’s not a big deal if I break the rules (after all, just one bite won’t hurt).
It actually is a big deal if I break the rules, because 99 times out of a 100, when I break the rules once, I end up breaking them again the same day—and we all know what that can lead to.

4. I can’t believe I broke the rules—I’m such a (failure, loser, etc.).
If I were capable of following the rules without ever breaking them, I wouldn’t have a problem with emotional eating! Of course I broke the rules—but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. I’m a child of God who just broke the rules. I need to figure out what made me break the rules and press on.

5. As long as I broke the rules, I might as well eat whatever I want.
As long as I broke the rules, I might as well use it as an opportunity to bring my thoughts captive to the truth through Scripture prayer or truth journaling so I’ll be less likely to break the rules next time.

6. No one can tell me how much to eat.
Sad, but true. It’d be a lot easier if my mom were here to control what I eat, but since she isn’t I better set some rules of my own.

7. Rules are too restrictive (and that’s a bad thing).
Living without rules and indulging the flesh leads to slavery (which is incredibly restrictive). Following the rules will give me the freedom I’ve always longed for.

8. All I have to do is follow the rules, and then I can get this weight off and keep it off.
I’ll never be able to follow the rules in my own strength if this is a stronghold for me, so all I have to do is bring my thoughts captive to the truth about a million times (alright, that’s a lie—it only seems like a million times) until I believe the truth so deeply that I actually don’t feel like breaking the rules anymore.

9. There’s no use following the rules anymore today since I already broke them.
There’s no use trying to do this in my own strength today, now that I’ve already broken the rules. I know from past experience that the only thing that will stop me now is taking the time to renew my mind. I better carve out some time to truth journal or pray Scripture before I eat anything else.

10. If I can just find the right rule (eating when hungry, having lifelong boundaries, etc.) it will be easy to control my eating.
If I’m an emotional eater, I’ll never find a rule that makes it easy. If I keep carrying my thoughts captive to the truth, though, one day I'll start believing the truth and on that day, it will start to get easier.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11