LOSE IT FOR LIFE
THE TOTAL SOLUTION—SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL—FOR PERMANENT WEIGHT LOSS
By Stephen Arterburn Linda Mintle
Copyright © 2011 Stephen Arterburn and Linda Mintle
All right reserved.
What Do you Have to Lose?
Food is everywhere! Enticing ads fill the pages of magazines. Billboards loaded with images of pizzas and burgers grab our attention. Television commercials lure us to the refrigerator in search of late-night, feel-good snacks. And if we really want to be scintillated, we can tune in to an entire television network dedicated to scrumptious food preparation, as well as experiencing (however vicariously) the ecstasy associated with eating those specialties. Anyone who is triggered to eat by the mere mention of food or easy access to it is in big trouble in our snack-infested, food-congested society.
Hurried schedules give way to too many fast-food meals eaten on the go. And fast food almost always means fat food. Portions are supersized and a bargain to boot. Some authorities insist that much of our society's obesity comes from one source: carbonated soft drinks—a fancy name for flavored sugar water—consumed in vat-like 32- to 64-ounce containers called "Big Gulps." High prices discourage the purchase of organic and whole foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Public high schools subsidize their funding by placing soda and snack machines in their halls of learning. And school lunches are filled with nutritionally bankrupt food.
The food industry isn't solely to blame for amplifying our problem with food. The multibillion-dollar fashion industry promotes an ideal body image that is nearly impossible to replicate, so we give up and collapse into the extreme opposite of the ideal. Guilt and shame glare back from the mirror as we camouflage our thighs and secretly purchase cellulite-reducing creams. Thanks to the media, any chance for a healthy body image is gone before puberty hits. Food becomes our enemy and our lover, truly a relationship as complicated as any other.
When it comes to eating, American culture is toxic. As consumers, we are encouraged to ignore the consequences of overindulgence and our mentality of always needing more. Among the "You deserve a break today" mantras, the messages are consistent: you are entitled to what you want, and you should be immediately gratified (whenever you wish!). However, giving in to these hedonistic messages has led to a serious fallout. As a country, we are fatter than ever and playing roulette with our physical health, mental health, and spiritual health. Our sedentary lifestyles, combined with a poor diet, have led to an obesity epidemic.
American culture promises satisfaction from the pursuit of pleasure. Yet one of the richest and wisest kings of all time (Solomon) concluded that chasing pleasure as an end unto itself only leads to despair. When we lose sight of the Giver of all pleasure (food, taste, and eating included), we carry a burden of excess, both physically and spiritually.
Even the church culture can add to our difficulties. So much of what goes on outside of a Sunday service—most of the social opportunities of the church, in fact—revolve around food. Surely the potluck was invented in a church somewhere in the Midwest. It is almost as if we look for occasions to get together and eat. Additionally, we hear sermons about the evils of alcohol, drugs, and sex outside of marriage, but we seldom hear the Word on gluttony. In fact, some of the best Christian speakers have not resolved their own food issues, so they do not address them with their followers. They would be fired if they entered the pulpit drunk, drugged, or holding a pornographic magazine, but they are excused from taking an extra two hundred pounds up onto the platform. They send an unspoken message that food is the one acceptable addiction of the church.
In society at large, there is a strange dichotomy surrounding food and weight. Our culture simultaneously encourages gorging at the fast-food trough and the all-you-can-stuff buffets, while also frowning deeply on those who pack on extra pounds and look anything less than walking advertisements for anorexia. It is an unwritten American eleventh commandment: thou shalt not be fat. Yet, like the original Law, we are living evidence that this commandment cannot be carried out in our own power. With more than 120 million overweight people, another 5 to 10 million suffering from eating disorders, and still another 25 million suffering from binge-eating disorders, more than willpower is involved in this battle.
The cultural vilification of overweight people guarantees we will try anything to escape the stigma. The billion-dollar dieting industry plays us like a fine violin. When we aren't feeling momentarily defeated, we will embrace another gimmick and believe in its power even when the claims defy all logic. Our sensibilities are lost on the fact that if any of these dieting schemes actually worked, all serious weight-loss programs would go out of business.
But desperation leads to drastic measures—we will try anything for the promise of becoming the incredible shrinking woman or man. The industry knows this and persuades us to keep trying to be thin. And if we buy into the seduction, we can live our lives chasing false images perpetuated by the media. Witness the horror and fascination on MTV as people spend thousands of dollars and suffer intense pain under the knives of plastic surgeons in order to have their frames and faces remade to look like famous stars they idolize. What isn't often shown to the general public are the horror stories of such procedures. A recent television story shared the despair of a mother whose daughter choked to death on her own blood while she recovered from a liposuction procedure in the office of a local plastic surgeon. Truly, does a sixteen-year-old really need to undergo such a surgery in order to live a happy and fulfilled life?
And we forget, or fail to realize, that our spiritual connection to a loving heavenly Father offers real help and truth without distortion in a way no advertiser or program could ever deliver. Dissatisfied and unhappy with life, the hope is that external beauty will translate into opportunity, acceptance, and new life. But as the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, this is vanity and only leads to emptiness. Lasting happiness and a rich and fulfilling life will only be found in a right relationship with God and others.
So what's the message? This culture is not going to endorse your decision to change. It will neither help you control your eating nor offer friendly support. In fact, it may oppose the very measures that contribute to you successfully losing weight for life. But there is reason to hope. In the midst of all the negative influences of our food-saturated society and weight-conscious culture, there is another message: it is possible to lose weight and keep it off.
CONTROL OR SURRENDER?
Life is difficult. Just when we think we have things under control, something happens to remind us that control is elusive. The children who brought such pleasure early on now bring headaches and heartbreaks with rebellion and even rejection. The promotion at work gives you more money but robs you of valuable time and peace of mind. The truth is, we aren't really in control. And until we come to terms with this reality, our lives are destined to be full of anxiety, fear of the future, guilt over the past, and anger at others. Notice—each of these is an excuse to eat!
We can, however, pretend to be in control, especially when it comes to losing weight. We pretend by lying to ourselves about the quick fix that fixes nothing or the instant solution that only makes matters worse. We delude ourselves with the mantras of all those who have failed before us:
All I have to do is have more willpower.
All I have to do is just stop eating so much.
All I have to do is quit being so lazy and exercise more.
All I have to do is take more control of my life.
I can do anything if I try hard enough.
And when I no longer believe the lie that I can do whatever I set my mind to, I succumb to the opposite extreme, believing I can do nothing and all is hopeless. The murmurs of my aching soul are:
My weight is genetic and there is nothing I can do about it.
It's a sin to dig up the past—what's done is done.
If I was supposed to be thin, I would have been born that way.
We beat our heads against that same brick wall many times before we realize that our own power is not getting us very far. Check your head. I bet there are many bruises! If so, it's time for a change.
Rather than fight with the same ineffective weapons that have backfired so many times, why not surrender this battle for weight loss? Pull out the white flag and vigorously wave it. Give yourself over to a higher authority; relinquish control to God. He can be trusted, especially when we feel weak and defeated. As the apostle Paul reminds us, "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). In fact, when we come to the end of ourselves, God is waiting to step in and provide rest for the weary, and chances are you could use a little reprieve from this exhausting fight. After all, what do you have to lose?
Why not give up the illusion of control and yield to God's mercy and grace? First Peter 5:6 tells us, "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor" (NLT). Acknowledge your weakness, and invite God into the process. Accept the radical notion that if you could have fixed your weight problem on your own, under your own power, you would have done it by now and the struggle would be over. You have to make an admission. You have to admit you cannot handle this on your own. You have to admit that God can. And you have to let Him do this work, even if it means working with God's people to accomplish the transformation that is necessary (it will!). When you let go of your life and put it into God's hands, you are in good hands.
God is the Creator of all life and the Lord of the universe. But since the garden of Eden, men and women have continually played God and tried unsuccessfully to rule over their own destinies. From Genesis through Revelation, Scripture reveals humankind's natural incapacity to live healthy, God-pleasing lives. The Old Testament describes a colorful assortment of characters who turned their backs on God's ways and inevitably experienced fear, foolishness, and failure. Fortunately, some of them surrendered to the ultimate power of God, allowing Him to intervene in their lives with divine power and wisdom. In the New Testament, Christ's death on the cross made God's intervention even more accessible—He took upon Himself the willfulness and rebellion of the entire world. His resurrection brought hope for new life.
Through years of failed weight-loss attempts, the road of self-effort and control has not taken you where you wanted to go. Proverbs 14:12 tells us, "Before every man there lies a wide and pleasant road that seems right but ends in death" (TLB). To stay on this road is to choose further heartache and destruction. Consequently, we must be willing to admit that our lives have spun out of control. Self-control and our forms of self-treatment have failed us and must be abandoned.
Although we are limited by our weaknesses, God is not. By acknowledging that He alone has the power to change the courses of our lives, we surrender to Him our powerlessness and begin the process of spiritual renewal. Only when we relinquish our control to God does He release His supernatural power in our lives, and it is only through His power that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
Every limitation we have can be seen as an invitation from God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. When we surrender, we don't just give up or play dead or wait for God to fix us. Instead, we become active participants with God in making a new path of hope toward healing. We drop our guard and give up our solitary and isolated efforts to heal. We sincerely and humbly reach out to others who can help us restore our lives to spiritual vitality. Surrender is not passivity, nor is it resignation. Its motion requires an active and conscious turning toward God wherein we reflect our willingness to submit to His power by living out our newfound truth and sharing it with others.
humbling ourselves before the God of the universe
admitting that God is all-powerful and releasing our struggles to Him
refusing to escape into the old patterns, habits, and attitudes that continue to distract us and add to the destruction of our lives
no longer saying, "I can handle this myself"
submitting to God's way of doing things even when we don't understand
getting past our pain and fear and clinging to our hope in God and His love for us
setting aside our human understanding and becoming childlike, and acknowledging that we have no answers that work
Surrender allows you to grow as you submit to God's authority. In order to submit, you must trust that God has good things for you and that His plans and purposes far outweigh what you bring to the table. There are times in our lives when it is very tough to believe that God has good plans in store. When I (Steve) discovered my marriage would end in divorce, it caused a huge faith crisis for me. Surely God would want to spare me the embarrassment and humiliation of being divorced in front of radio listeners, book readers, friends, and family, wouldn't He? What could ever come out of this that would be good? Though I never doubted Jesus was the only way to heaven, I did start to doubt if God really was involved with my life on this side of heaven. I was in deep pain and didn't know if I could trust God to be personally involved with me.
Daily surrender was a daily battle. I felt the need to control based on the absence of God's "felt" concern for me. So I set out in the beginning to do the best I could under my own power. Fortunately that plan did not last long. I began to see God at work and trusted that His love was still there for me in the midst of my failed marriage. Through this pain I came to realize that much of my life was not surrendered to God. As a result of that crisis, I came to a fresher seeking of the true and living God, complete with a new desire for intimacy with Him. The divorce was just the excuse God used to bring me to my knees and to get to know Him once again.
In my own life, I (Dr. Linda) struggled with this concept after my oldest brother was killed. I falsely believed that God could not be trusted because He didn't protect my family and prevent this tragedy from happening. At a time of great loss, I believed a lie—that God could not be trusted. So why would I submit to such an authority?
The difference between surrender and control looks like this:
God is the Master of the universe. I can master all things.
God's perspective is higher than mine. What I feel is all that is important.
My circumstances are part of God's eternal If God is God, my circumstances must be perspective. changed now.
I must allow God's plans to open up before me. My plans are all that matter. I demand immediate results.
I am not alone and will never be. If there is a God, He is not a part of my life, and I alone can change my reality.
I accept life knowing that all things will work I blame God when life doesn't go the way I together for my good. think it should.
The lie became so ingrained that a few years later, I refused to put the words "submit" and "obey" in my wedding vows. I loved my husband-to-be, but would I submit to his authority and trust that he had good things for me? No way. I believed that my husband, like God, could not be trusted; both had the potential to hurt me. My belief wasn't based on any reality—I just wasn't about to give control to anyone for fear of being hurt. Disappointed with God, I thought I could prevent bad things from happening. I figured the more I took charge of my life, the less chance I had to be hurt again. You can guess how well this strategy worked!
The years of heartache this type of thinking caused could have been avoided if I had recognized the lie under which I was operating. I had an inaccurate view of God based on my traumatic experience of loss. As a young adult, this prevented me from submitting my life to God's greater purposes, a step that could have saved me much grief. Be assured that it is never too late to abandon yourself to God's power and authority. He can redeem lost time and work His purposes in your life. This has been true in my own life. And when you release yourself from self-effort and striving, a huge burden is lifted.
Excerpted from LOSE IT FOR LIFE by Stephen Arterburn Linda Mintle Copyright © 2011 by Stephen Arterburn and Linda Mintle. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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