Day 21: A lifetime of fullness

Thought for the Day: Eating wisely can become more than just a diet. It can become our lifestyle! But better yet, we position our hearts to enjoy closeness and fulfillment with God for eternity!

I want to thank you for joining me the last twenty-one days. Our journey to healthy eating started by realizing how Eve, the first woman, gave in to temptation with food. We also read in the Bible how the Israelites, God’s people, struggled with food, which led to them wandering in the desert for forty years. Additionally, we read rich truths in the Psalms and New Testament which gave us a healthier perspective of food and of fullness in Christ.

So, we shouldn’t be surprised when the Bible ends with another pivotal verse about food. For me, this verse might be the one that elicits the greatest excitement in my heart. Revelation 2:7 says:

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Aren’t you encouraged to see that overcoming is possible? We can be more than just women who hide our struggles or deal with them just enough to survive. This verse in Revelation says “the one who overcomes.” In other words, it confirms that we can find absolute victory in an area where we once knew nothing but defeat.

There’s a reward awaiting those of us who press through our struggles all the way to absolute victory. This reward is crucial, because virtually anyone who overcomes a difficult challenge will tell you that their victory was the sum total of daily sacrificial decisions to reach a goal and the reward. I am thrilled to know that the reward for overcomers in Jesus Christ is that we are given the right to eat … in paradise! Eating from the tree of life with God will be unlike any satisfaction we’ve ever known.

Remember, you were made to crave God, not food. The best reward to healthy eating is experiencing closeness with God. I pray that you continue on this beneficial journey for a lifetime. Eating wisely can become more than just a diet. It can become our lifestyle.

And better yet, we position our hearts to enjoy closeness and fulfillment with God for eternity!

Day 20: The curse of the skinny jeans

Thought for the Day: Tying our happiness to food, skinny jeans, relationships, or anything else sets us up for failure. But tying our security, joy, and identity to God’s love is an anchor that we can cling to no matter what the circumstances.

Once I reached my goal weight, I thought I’d never have a bad day again. I mean really, what could possibly trouble me if I could fit into my skinny jeans? Boy was I wrong.

A hurtful email showed up … a disrespectful attitude from one of my kids … a missed appointment … a messy house … a stressful situation at work … an unexpected bill. Here I was just hours after feeling thrilled at finally being able to wear my skinny jeans, falling prey to the same topsy-turvy stuff I used to think wouldn’t bother me if only I were smaller. This is the curse of the skinny jeans. The truth I’ve had to realize is that my body size is not tied to my happy. If I was unhappy when I was larger, I’ll still be unhappy when I get smaller.

For years, I tied happiness to my circumstances and hopes for the future. I thought, “I’ll be happy when my father comes back, when I get married, when I have kids, when the economy improves, when I lose those extra pounds…” But even when some of those things came true, I was still dissatisfied. Surely there was more to me than defining myself by my circumstances.

One day I read a list of Bible verses that describe who God says I am, no matter the circumstances in my life, both good and bad. I took that list of Scriptures and started to redefine my identity. It was a stark contrast to the way I defined myself by circumstances or others’ opinions of me. I finally realized that these issues don’t define me. Instead, I could tie my happiness to the reality of who my heavenly Father says I am:

  • Lysa, the forgiven child of God. (Romans 3:24)
  • Lysa, the set-free child of God. (Romans 8:1–2)
  • Lysa, the accepted child of God. (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • Lysa, the holy child of God. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Lysa, the made-new child of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Lysa, the loved child of God. (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Lysa, the close child of God. (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Lysa, the confident child of God. (Ephesians 3:12)
  • Lysa, the victorious child of God. (Romans 8:37)

We were made to be set free, holy, new, loved, and confident. Because of this truth, we can’t allow our minds to partake in anything that negates our real identity. Tying our happiness to food, skinny jeans, relationships, or anything else will only set us up for failure. But tying our security, joy, and identity to God’s love is an anchor that we can cling to no matter what the circumstances.

Day 19: The power of “I can”

Thought for the Day: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, see also 6:12)

Reaching my weight loss goal is a precarious place for me. That’s because I find it is a blessing entangled with a curse. The “curse” is the assumption that freedom now means I can return to all those things I’ve given up for the past months. The sacrifices … the missed treats … the deprived taste buds high on salad and low on French fries. I’m tempted to celebrate, live it up, and invite all those foods I’ve missed to a little welcome-home party.

Yet, I can’t fling open the door to all of those missed foods without welcoming back the excess calories, fat grams, cholesterol, sugars, and addictive additives. Most of these guests fall under the category of junk foods. The interesting thing about these guests is that they send out little signals to our brain begging us to party with them again and again. A welcome-home party becomes an invitation to be roommates again, which spells disaster for what we hoped might be a lifestyle change.

A chips-and-chocolate girl like me can find it hard to un-invite certain foods to the party that have been regulars for years. It’s even more difficult to reconcile that they aren’t my friends. Some can be casual acquaintances on a very limited level, but others need to be banished for good. Only you can determine which foods are allowed back, and which are not.

One of my favorite Scriptures in this process is 1 Corinthians 6:12: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” I quote it over and over reminding myself that I could have that brownie, or that cheese dip, but they wouldn’t benefit me in any way. That powerful thought has helped to make a healthy choice, rather than wallowing in being deprived of an unhealthy choice.

So, lest we start mourning what will be lost, we must celebrate all that’s being gained through this process. “I can” instead of “I can’t” is a powerful little twist for a girl feeling deprived. For example:

  • “I can” helps me walk into a dinner party and find the conversation more appealing than the buffet.
  • “I can” helps me stay on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresher, healthier selections abound and smile that I know this tidbit.
  • “I can” helps me reach for my water bottle and find satisfaction in its refreshment.
  • “I can” helps me look at the McDonald’s menu and order a fruit tray without even giving a thought to the Happy Meals that used to be snacks.
  • “I can” reminds me to look up a restaurant’s nutritional information on the Internet before going out, ensuring wiser choices.

“I can” reminds me that no food will ever taste as sweet as lasting victory!

Day 18: I’m not defined by the numbers

Thought for the Day: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

I was in an exercise class one day when the gal next to me leaned over and shared concerns about her sister’s increasing weight. I was half listening and half straining to lift my aching legs when she quipped, “I mean, my sister now weighs like 150 pounds!” I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or keep silent, because the number that horrified her was the exact number I saw that very morning on my scale!

However, I found great joy when I realized that my workout buddy’s statement didn’t rattle me. It would have just a few years ago. It would have sent me on a tailspin full of crash diets and unrealistic expectations.

However, there I was, at peace, in the midst of her harsh statement. I wasn’t at my goal weight yet. But I was in the process of investing wisely in my health and spiritual growth. I had been diligently filling my mind with God’s truths. These principles now protected me from thoughts of condemnation, jealousy, and defeat. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he said in 2 Corinthians 10:5:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

When we’re familiar with God’s truth, we can literally challenge any comment with the questions, “Is it true? Is it beneficial? Is it necessary?” If the answer is no, then we don’t open the door of our hearts. We make the choice to walk away from the comment and all the negative thoughts it could harvest if we listened to it.

My classmate’s shock at her sister’s weight wasn’t beneficial to me. Therefore, I didn’t have to internalize her comment. I could leave it on the gym floor and walk away. That statement didn’t belong to me. I had a choice to make. I could feed that comment and let it crush my identity. Or, I could see it as a careless remark and move on with my day.

Standing in the gym, I desperately wanted to yell out three glorious words, “I am free!” In that moment, I had a small moment of victory over an identity disorder that I’d battled for a long time. I was no longer defined by a number on the scale, because my weight loss goal was peace. As we move through our healthy eating journey, remember that the goal shouldn’t just be a smaller measurement, but a larger measure of peace.

Day 17: Don’t fence me in

Thought for the Day: Boundaries are not restrictive fences meant to keep you from enjoying life, but gifts from a God who cares about your well-being.

Sometimes, the words “no,” “boundaries,” and “limitations” stir up feelings of deprivation and resistance in my strong-willed self. But I’ve learned that I must embrace the boundaries of the healthy eating plan that I chose. I must see these limits as parameters that define my freedom.

I learned this principle through my sweet, little dog, Chelsea, who isn’t the brightest canine around cars. She’s obsessed with trying to attack the tires crunching against our gravel driveway inside our fenced-in yard. As a result, she had an unfortunate encounter with a moving vehicle about the same time I started my healthy eating plan.

After Chelsea’s injury, the vet informed us that helping her heal meant we’d have to keep her calm for three weeks. This recommendation sounded crazy considering it’s hard to keep Chelsea still for three minutes! Worse, she was forbidden to bite or pull at her bandages and stitches. So, the dreaded cone was placed around her neck to keep her injuries out of reach.

As Chelsea healed, I was the master of her new limitations. She punished me with hours of whining and crying. She constantly tried to escape through our fence and kept snapping at her bandages. However, my love for this dog wouldn’t permit me to let her to harm herself. Her brokenness couldn’t handle that kind of freedom. Not yet.

As I watched Chelsea struggle, I was struck by the way her situation applied to my issues with eating healthy. My brokenness couldn’t handle freedom with food outside the boundaries of my plan. Not yet. Eventually I would be able to add some things back into my diet in small quantities. But not yet.

Since my brokenness with food runs deep, my new healthy habits need time to run even deeper. Here are a few of the boundaries I’ve created to ensure success on my healthy eating adventure:

  • I am not made to be a victim of my poor choices. I was made to be a victorious child of God.
  • I can find ways to celebrate that don’t involve blowing my healthy eating plan.
  • If I am in a situation where the temptation is overwhelming, I will have to choose either to remove the temptation or remove myself from the situation.
  • Struggling with my weight isn’t a curse from God. Being overweight is an outside indication that internal changes are needed for my body to function properly and for me to feel well.

I’ve learned that boundaries aren’t restrictive fences meant to keep us from enjoying life, but gifts from a God who cares about our well-being. Whether you are staring at a party hors d’oeuvre table of all things cheesy, or ready to bite your friend’s head off as she reminds you of the healthy eating plan you chose, I pray these boundaries help you like they’ve helped me.

Day 16: The “G” word

Thought for the Day: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1–2)

Have you ever heard a sermon about your eating habits? I doubt it. Excessive drinking, yes. Excessive eating, never. At least I hadn’t until a historic church-going day when the preacher man pulled out the big “G” word: gluttony.

I rolled my eyes, as you have just done, and thought, “How dare you say to me that eating is a sinful desire?” But his point was brilliant and I took it to heart.

How can we stand and wag our fingers in the direction of alcohol only to walk into the church-wide, covered-dish buffet and stuff ourselves sick with fried, covered-and-smothered, grossly caloric delights that buckle our paper plates and cause our stomachs to cry for antacids?

I want you to hear me. I’m not saying that eating is a sinful desire. What I am saying is, if you have a script like this (“I’m fat, I’m ugly, and I’m not capable of getting it together”) playing in your mind, then something is waging war against your soul.

First Peter 2:11 reminds us, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul.”

In other words, if something is waging war against your soul, it is a sinful desire. Now please hear me again. Eating in and of itself is not a sinful desire. God made us to consume food, but food was never supposed to consume us. And if food starts consuming us to the point where we cannot feel empowered, then that is a problem.

I imagine at this point you are wondering if we really need to go there with this gluttony thing. It’s not exactly the most girlfriend-friendly topic that makes you want to say, “Preach on, sister. I’m loving this encouragement!”

When we rely on over-stuffing ourselves with food, drinking until we get drunk, or conducting an adulterous relationship, we are revealing a desperate attempt to silence the cries of a hungry soul.

Our souls have the same ravenous intensity as a vacuum cleaner; that’s how God created us — with a longing to be filled. It is a longing God instilled to draw us into deep intimacy with Him. The psalmist expresses this longing as an intense thirst:

As the deer pants for steams of water, so my soul thirsts for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Indeed, our souls are thirsty and ravenous vacuums. If we fail to fill our souls with spiritual nourishment, we will forever be triggered to numb our longings with other temporary physical pleasures that will never satisfy.

Day 15: I’ll have what she’s having

Thought for the Day: Just because a woman is skinny doesn’t mean that she’s healthy. The struggles are similar, just in a different size package.

One problem with trying to eat healthy is when you sit down next to a skinny girl who wolfs down everything on her plate. It makes me want to say, “I’ll have what she’s having.” A similar frustration pops up when Ms. Petite picks up her kids in a cute tennis outfit that I could never wear.

The paradox of comparing ourselves to other people is that we become blind to what we already have in the face of what we don’t have. Our hearts are drawn into a place of assumption. We assume that everything is great for those who possess what we lack.

But here’s the kicker. Everyone has not-so-great aspects their lives, things that they will have to learn to surrender or sacrifice. Sure, my size-two friend could eat all the snacks she wanted, but she’s got other struggles for which she has to depend on God. For instance, consider that skinny girl in your life who eats whatever she wants and makes you think, “How unfair.” Yet listen to what she might say in return, as someone once shared with me: “I am one of the skinny girls, but don’t mistake skinny for healthy. I battle depression, self-esteem issues, and verbal abuse. The list seems endless. Being little doesn’t make a person any more happy or faithful or joyful. The struggles are similar, just in a different size package.”

Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power. James 1:3-4 says,

The testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature, complete, not lacking anything.

Why not make this a daily prayer, first thing in the morning: “God, I recognize that I am made for more than the vicious cycle of being ruled by food, body image, and comparing myself to others. I am thankful that You made my body unique in ways that I can serve You and in ways that turn my reliance upon You. I need to eat to live, not live to eat. So I keep asking for Your wisdom to know what to eat and Your indwelling power to walk away from things and thoughts that are not beneficial for me.”

Oh sweet sisters, this truth should be the cry of our souls and drown out Satan’s lie that “she has it easier.” Our taste buds crave many things to satisfy, but only persevering with God will make us truly full.

Day 14: God is my portion

Thought for the Day: “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” (Lamentations 3:22–24)

The term “portion control” took on a whole new meaning for me one day when I read the response that God’s people had after Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt. God had performed several sensational miracles to help them escape their captors. Yet they panicked when food became scarce. They even asked to go back to slavery in Egypt where food was supposedly abundant. But God planned to use their desire for food to teach them about daily dependence upon Him.

As Israelites traveled through the desert, each morning God would rain down exactly what they needed for nourishment — a provision called “manna,” which I imagine was something like little, sweet, potato flakes. They were to collect just enough manna for the day. They couldn’t gather extra, except before the Sabbath day of rest, or it would rot. This daily process was intended to put them in the habit of dependence on God, and only God.

However, the Israelites began to grumble and turned their hearts against God. So He took them on a detour. Instead of heading straight to the Promised Land of freedom, they wandered in the desert for forty years while they learned how to truly depend on God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend the next forty years of my life learning this lesson. I want to stop grumbling about my weight and embrace this valuable lesson to walk in the freedom of God’s provision. As we apply this same process to our struggles, we can find that God is the perfect portion for everything we need, every longing we have, every desperate desire of our soul.

God is there when my husband and I have a big argument, my kids are unruly, a business deal doesn’t go as planned, or the bills start piling up. Instead of grabbing a tub of ice cream or ordering pizza, I ask God to be my daily portion in these tough times.

For example, if your boyfriend breaks up with you, instead of inhaling a big bowl of chips and dip, ask God to be your daily portion of companionship in this lonely time. “God, I hate this rejection and hurt. Sometimes I feel like the loneliness is going to swallow me alive. I can’t deal with this on my own. Will You be my portion of healing and companionship just for this day?”

Or, when your kids are driving you crazy, instead of chowing down three pieces of chocolate cake, you might pray, “God, I so desperately want to be a patient mom. I don’t know if I can be a patient mom the rest of my life. But with Your portion of strength I can rely on You in this moment and not try to medicate my shortcomings with food.”

Whatever your situation, ask God to be your daily portion of companionship, provision, and patience — over and over. Soon, you’ll find yourself walking in victory over those things instead of looking back over tears and a pile of cake crumbs.

Day 13: The tower of impossibility

Thought for the Day: “Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 24:14)

Standing before a decadent dessert table piled high like a tempting tower was a daunting task. I was glowing with the first flush of success with my healthy eating plan, but now I found myself at the blow-out wedding of the season. A mere wedding cake was not enough panache for this soiree. Instead, a full buffet of chocolate truffles accompanied the groom’s cake. It was beautiful. And I wanted one of each flavor!

Previously, when I faced the calorie-overload opportunities so common in our culture, I felt overwhelmed and defeated. The tower of truffles seemed like a tower of impossibility. But this time my perspective was different. I had experienced a shift and tasted a new style of hope.

The particular healthy-eating plan that I had chosen was full of wisdom about the realities of food’s interaction with my body. In addition, I had put some healthy boundaries in place, surrounded myself with a like-minded friend, and replaced old lies in my mind with new truths. This new foundation began to slowly build, one day at a time. Healthy choices piled on top of each other day after day. Then, one day I woke up for the first time feeling incredibly empowered. I still did the typical routine with the scale–no clothes and no ponytail holder. My body was slowly changing because I had lost some weight. But the most thrilling feeling was knowing that my heart was changing.

Hope over despair tasted better than any food I’d ever given up. I had sought God’s perspective using prayer, boundaries, and His fulfillment as my source. I realized nothing was worth compromising the path of victory I was on — not even the tower of truffles!

I paved my victory path by imagining every good choice I made was like settling another brick into place: bricks of prayer, wise choices, closeness to God, closeness to others, confidence, energy, and focus. Each and every time I conquered a temptation by making a healthy choice, I became stronger and stronger. And, brick by brick, prayer by prayer, good choice by good choice, my hope soared. I’m making positive physical changes, but even more importantly, I’m making wise spiritual changes. As Proverbs 24:14 reminds me, walking in spiritual wisdom secures my hope that this healthy journey will not end in defeat:

Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

As you face similar temptations, I can’t promise that there won’t be any more tears. There will be. And I can’t promise that sweets will no longer appeal to you. They may. I can’t even promise that the number on the scale will magically drop as quickly as you wish. It probably won’t. But gaining spiritual wisdom along the way will set your feet on a sure path of victory. Press on, my friend!

Day 12: But I never feel full

Thought for the Day: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17 – 19)

For years, I walked around with a little heart-shaped cup in my soul, holding it out to people or things trying to find fulfillment. Some of us hold out our heart-shaped cup and expect a husband to love us in ways that rights our wrongs and fills up our insecurities. Sometimes, we expect our kids to be successful so that we look good and feel validated by their accomplishments. Or, we hope that a successful career will confirm that we are a valuable human being.

At times, I have asked the impossible of all of these. But my consistent “friend” of choice over the years has been food. Imagine my little heart-shaped cup as a candy dish, using sweets and snacks to soothe my emotions.

However, if we are going to replace destructive cycles with lasting changes in our lives, then we have to empty ourselves of the lie that other people or things can ever fill our hearts. Instead, we have to deliberately fill up on God’s truths and stand secure in His love. Here are some examples of how we can do that:

Old lie: “I am such a failure when it comes to my diet.”
New truth: “I am not a failure. I am a lavishly loved child of God. Part of my right as a child of God is to operate in a power beyond myself. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to me. So it is possible for me to use the self-control I’ve been given.”

Old lie: “I need these Oreos!”
New truth: “The thought that these Oreos will fill me is a lie. They will taste good for just the few minutes it will take to eat them. Then that hollow feeling of guilt will rush in as soon as the chocolate high dissipates. If I truly need a snack right now, I am capable of choosing a healthier option.”

Old lie: “God seems far away and French fries are right around the corner at the drive-thru.”
New truth: “French fries don’t love me. And the only lasting thing I get from them is the cholesterol and cellulite they inevitably leave behind, which will just compound my frustration. God’s love is here in this moment and in many more to come. His love is true and carries with it only positive residual effects.”

Examine how you can replace the lies and rationalizations in your mind with the truth of God’s love. Experience the power of renewing your mind and learning that food was never meant to fulfill the deepest places of your heart. And, as Ephesians 3:19 reminds, may you understand that the only way to true satisfaction is to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

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