Are You Stuck?

I dreamt of an elephant. He was held captive, secured around one leg, and attached to a tent peg. Did that elephant symbolize me? Struggling to walk in the freedom of Christ? First, let me explain.

If a mighty elephant can push a tree down and pull heavy logs, why can’t he pull a small peg from the ground to free himself?

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Answer: He can escape, but the elephant thinks he’s powerless over that chain.

That’s because circus owners, and folks who use elephants as beasts of burden, chain a baby elephant by one leg to a metal pole. He may pull and tug all day, but instead of escaping, the chain cuts into his leg. The effort to free himself becomes pointless. And this mindset—helpless and avoiding physical pain—stays with the elephant so that even as a strong adult, he never attempts to do what he’s capable of doing. Only to say…

Have I been conditioned since childhood to respond in certain ways? Are there previous experiences and voices in my head that cause me to avoid pain and moving forward?

In Thin Within, a Non-Diet Grace-Based Approach to Lasting Weight Loss, I learned how emotional pain and un-forgiveness can impact our eating habits and cause addictions particularly when it comes to the way we view ourselves.

I remember hating my body as a young girl. I wanted to cover myself when I was forced to take a group shower every day during Junior High Girl’s P.E. How could I not compare my skinny body to the more-developed girls around me?

I remember seeing center-fold models in girly magazines when I was a child, and thinking, that’s how I’m supposed to look one day. Then realizing (later in life) that ideal, female figure was an elusive standard I’d never achieve; wondering if that made me any less sexy.

I remember a gal who was raped. She gained a huge amount of weight afterwards. Was she attempting to make herself less attractive to men?

I remember an intelligent, slim teenager who became anorexic because her boyfriend said she wasn’t “perfect enough” and chose someone else.

I remember a man numbing himself with alcohol because he was anxious and lonely.

When I remember these heartaches , I think about that elephant trapped by a chain that cannot hold him. And waits for his master to arrive with the key to release him.

Jesus is my Lord and Master. He doesn’t want me chained or yoked to anyone or anything, but Him. And yet, how many people…including myself…remain stuck instead of asking God to turn the master key?

What is this master key? According to Thin Within “It is God’s grace, which is extended to all God’s beloved through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. It is also His forgiveness, which was freely given on the cross at Calvary. It is through forgiveness that our temple is cleansed and the remaining rubble cleared away.”

And yet, that knowledge isn’t a magic pill. I’ve had to take action, and ask the Lord if there is anything in my past that needs to be unearthed and released in order to move forward and experience His peace and joy.

Do I need to forgive my own sin and imperfections? Forgive others who may have intentionally—or not—treated me poorly or trained me to view myself in a shameful way? Perhaps I need to talk to God about something He allowed in my life that I didn’t “feel” I deserved. Or an expectation He didn’t meet. Back in the day, I had to confess my anger towards God when I suffered from three miscarriages.

The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to leave the past behind and walk forward in faith, by God’s grace. However, if I….

Refuse to believe I’m forgiven and free in Christ,
Think it’s impossible (or refuse) to forgive those who have wronged me,
Turn to food to escape the past instead of Christ,
Then I’ll live my life hobbled like that seemingly helpless elephant chained to the tent peg.

And if that image saddens me, imagine how God feels when He sees His children stuck in one place when they could be romping like calves.

Battle of the Binge

My recent loss with the Battle of the Binge—and the TW Lesson on Gideon—showed me three things when it comes to losing and maintaining weight. 

First, I had to admit that controlling my appetite is an ongoing battle.

I’m not sprinting towards a blue ribbon at the end of a twelve-week course. Food surrounds me daily like an enemy encircling camp. Waiting to sabotage me at every turn. 

For example, last week, the slim hostess of our book club…not knowing I’m trying to lose weight…set a plate of cookies on the table in front of me. I moved them towards the middle of the table and kept my eyes on whoever was discussing the book.

Then someone had the audacity to eat a cookie in front of me. She licked the crumbs off her fingers. Licked the mint chocolate from her lips. Actually, that’s an exaggeration, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a cookie. Craving sugar gave me hallucinations.

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Instead of quoting a truth card or memory verse, I told myself, “There’s freedom in Christ. One cookie won’t hurt.” Only, that cookie tasted so good that I ate another one. 

Yep, even though I observed and tried to correct, I succumbed to temptation. Every TW lesson shredded to pieces by my emotional longing to have a cookie.

If I’d been alone, I might have crawled on the table and made a feast of those cookies like the Cookie Monster in Sesame Street. Which is strange, because given the choice, I’d much rather have a cheese plate or a bowl of buttered popcorn.

Sadly, by succumbing to my sweet tooth, I drove home and made myself some fatty, greasy nachos. I’d like to say losing the Battle of the Binge made me feel ashamed. Not really. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I said, “tomorrow is another day.” And gave myself a heap of grace.

Secondly, I can’t fight this food battle on my own. Like Gideon’s 300 men, I need others to come beside me.

Had there been like-minded women at the book club, we could have smashed the cookies and exiled them into the kitchen trash. Or I could have played the heroine. Grabbed the cookie from my friend’s mouth to save her from those worthless calories.

That’s why the TW online community has been a delectable treat. Each day, I’m able to read about other warrior’s temptations, defeats, and victories! As we’ve encouraged and prayed for each other, the battle seems less overwhelming. I’m not alone. Neither are you! 

Thirdly, I can’t fight the battle on my own strength.

Not only do I need to put on the armor of Christ each morning, I need to follow Him throughout my day.

Listing God’s attributes isn’t TW busy work. In order to trust God to lead us to victory, and lean on Himwhen we’re empty (no pun intended) we need to know Him. Not just intellectually, by reading His Word, but spending time with Him so we’re familiar with His voice. And thus, more eager to obey Him.

Yep, last week I went A.W.O.L. from my healthy eating habits. But nothing’s wasted. By losing that Battle of the Binge, I’ve learned the value of the right tactics so I can win the next one.

Can I hear a hoorah!!

I’m Just a Girl Who Can Say No

A few weeks ago, I decided to participate in Thin Within  which is a grace-based approach to losing weight and healthy eating. I have a weekly blog on their website, but wanted to include it here. Perhaps readers will find something valuable to apply to their own lives…

Sun rises on a new day, but I’m still a creature of habit. I roll out of bed and head for the scales which draws me like a Siren.

Surely there’s a mistake. I wiggle my feet on the scale’s cold glass, but the digital numbers remain the same.

So I drag myself to the kitchen for my next habit—coffee. While it’s brewing, I open the refrigerator to get Half and Half. The carton sits on the second shelf next to last night’s leftovers.

“What should I make for dinner?”

My husband hates that question at 7 a.m., but I have to plan ahead. Thaw the meat; buy the ingredients. Meals don’t just happen. If I was the only one in the household, I could eat a bowl of cereal. Pop some popcorn. Have an apple, but I’ve others to consider.

After I’ve been caffeinated and studied the scriptures mentioned in my Thin Within Workbook, I drive to the grocery store. My irritable stomach grumbles. Are you nuts? How dare you take me here when I’m a zero. Look at all this food. You’re killing me.

I pat my belly. Behave yourself. You can have some peas and carrots when we get home.

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I weave the shopping cart among the vegetables and fruit. Avoid the ice cream aisle. I came for fresh produce, eggs, and chicken breasts, but a bag of Fritos sneaks into my cart.

I frown, but then I’m reminded: “Just because You’re losing weight doesn’t mean Hubby stopped eating snacks.”

Good point. I head for the check out line…before I’m tempted to visit the cookies…and set my groceries on the counter’s conveyer belt. 

While the female clerk rings up the food, I notice I’m conveniently hemmed in by two metal racks. Candy on my right. Magazines on my left.

One offers worthless calories and a quick sugar high. The other offers me recipes and a fast pass to lose weight. I study the headlines which are designed to bait my vanity.

“New Water Cure—Drop 8 lbs in 7 days”

“Lose 10,20,30 Pounds—in Just Weeks!”

I’d buy these magazines in a heartbeat if I thought losing weight were that easy. Only, I know better. The female models on the magazine covers are string-bean thin and half my age. I suck in my gut. I can lose weight, but I’ll never look that good. 

 Time for a Truth Card. “God doesn’t look at my outer appearance, but on the heart.”

The clerk pauses. “Anything else?”

I glance at the candy bars in their brightly-colored wrappers. My stomach begs me like a spoiled child sitting in a grocery cart, “Can I have one? Pretty please with a cherry on top?”

I remember 1 Corinthians 6:12 from Thin Within’s introduction.

“Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me – but I will not be mastered by anything.”

“No, thank you.”

My stomach sinks. It’s not used to hearing me say, “NO.”

I pay for the food and escape the store waving my receipt like a victory banner. Who knew? Renewing my mind with God’s Word really works!

But my smile fades fast because my belly’s turning somersaults,  and it won’t give up. “Yippee. Let’s eat something to celebrate! Got any Fritos?”

Craving Comfort?

As I waited in my car at a traffic light, tears came. My heart ached for my friend who had shared sad news. I also toyed with vain imaginings. What if that happens to me?

My mood darkened. And a strong craving stirred deep within me like a gluttonous creature waking up after a winter’s sleep. Restaurants on each corner of the intersection beckoned me.

“A coffee frappucvino would lift your spirits.”

I shook my head. “Too many calories.”

“How about a hamburger with fries or ice cream?”

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“I’m trying to lose weight!”

I turned left and drove towards home, never realizing how many restaurants lined the main highway in our small town. My mouth watered as advertisements for tacos, footlong sandwiches, and barbecue pulled pork vied for my taste buds.

“You should treat yourself to a personal pan pizza. Think of that warm mozzarella cheese…

I clenched my teeth. “Stop obsessing over food. I’m going home where I can control what and how much I eat.”

True story!

If I hadn’t signed up for Thin Within last week, I probably would have eaten the frappuccino and the pizza. Why?

Because in that moment, I would have gladly satisfied my deep, ravenous craving for a few minutes of delectable joy.

I realize now—hunger wasn’t the issue. As my friend, Heidi, says, “I wanted food to alter my mood.”

Funny, I never thought of myself as eating for comfort. Other folks might eat a quart of ice cream when they were depressed, but not me. So the Holy Spirit used my circumstances to show me the truth in Thin Within’s Lesson One.

I learned experientially that consuming a quart of ice cream is no less emotionally driven than grabbing the Almond Joy just because I FEEL depressed, lonely, or sad.

Sorrow is part of the human experience. When I feel like a hurt child, I want to crawl into Mother’s lap and rest. Rub my back. Kiss my bruise. Make me all better.

Only, I’m not a child and it’s necessary to deal with life’s pendulum of emotions by resting in the Lord rather than acquiring self-destructive habits like overeating to numb my pain.

It’s just like Satan (who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy) to entice people to search for comfort in anything or anyone other than God, the Father who loves us.

God knows we need comfort. He tells us, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you….” (Isaiah 66:13 NIV)

Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless….” (John 14:18)

God longs to comfort aching hearts. However, unlike a mom who might comfort her child with an animal cracker, the Lord doesn’t lure our sweet tooth to produce a smile. He satisfies our deepest cravings with Himself.

Comfort means “to ease someone’s pain,” it doesn’t ensure the Lord will remove the problem that pains us.

Instead, God comforts us with His strength. For the word “comfort” is derived from “fortis” which means strong.

“His strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

  • Strength to endure pain and sorrow.
  • Strength to walk on feeble feet down the path that leads to abundant life.
  • Strength to abstain from creature comforts that might sabotage our efforts to eat healthy.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26).

Now, isn’t that a comforting thought?

Photo:http://www.jennywrede.com