Day 11: It’s not fair!

Thought for the Day: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. . . . That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10)

A huge piece of delicious looking cake was delivered to our table. It was my favorite . . . it was our anniversary . . . and it was free! But I was at the beginning of my healthy eating adventure, which excluded sugary confections. So I graciously offered it to my husband. But inside a different dialogue was playing in my mind, “It’s not fair!”

I think this is one of the biggest tricks Satan plays to get us to give in to temptation. Saying “It’s not fair!” has caused many a girl to toss aside what she knows is right for the temporary thrill of whatever it is that does seem fair. We complain, “It’s not fair that I gain weight so easily when everyone else seems to eat whatever they want and stay trim.”

Now, realize that the dessert itself is not the problem. But if one piece of dessert leads to two and that leads to other compromises, which leads to wrecking our whole healthy eating plan, then the downward spiral reflects how temptation traps us in so many areas of life. I’ve experienced this vicious cycle myself, and I’m here to give you hope that it is possible to conquer it.

My pity party was a clue that I was relying on my own strength — a strength that has failed me before and will fail me again. So, when justifications swirl in my mind — “It’s a special day . . . with a special person . . . what’s the harm in sampling?” — I know I have to grab hold of God’s strength. The only way I’ve found to do that is to invite His power into the situation by mentally reciting truths such as, “I’m more than a conqueror,” “With God all things are possible,” or “Let the peace of God reign in your heart.”

This battle reminds me of the time I counseled a dating couple about setting boundaries in their physical relationship. They were looking forward to the best that marital sex had to offer, but struggled with maintaining purity in the face of immediate and temporary passion. They were tempted with the thought, “It’s not fair that we can’t have sex before we’re married when we’re so in love. Everyone else does.” My advice to them was to think beyond the moment, to say out loud, “This feels good now, but how will I feel about this in the morning? The truth is, compromising my commitments for the sake of physical pleasure is not God’s best for me.”

The same advice powerfully applies to our area of struggle. As we recite truth, God’s power can fill the gap of our weakness. I don’t know what you might be struggling with today, but I can assure you that God is just and fair. There is a good reason why we must face our temptations. The struggle to say “no” may be painful in the moment, but the process is working out something magnificent within us.

Day 10: But, exercise makes me want to cry

Thought for the Day: I fully realize that my body as a temple may not be God’s most grand dwelling. However, I want to lift up to the Lord my willingness to dedicate my exercise as a gift to Him and myself. This one act un-divides my heart and reminds me of the deeper purposes for moving my body.

Before I met my exercise-loving husband, I believed the only reason a person should sweat was if he or she were lying by the pool. But when I encountered Art, I temporarily changed my attitude. I was smitten. Oh, how I was motivated when I discovered that running was a fantastic way to spend more time with this man. However, on the first day of our honeymoon, when he woke up cheerfully and initiated an early-morning run, I thought, “Gracious, why would I want to do that? We’re married now.” And I didn’t run again for many years.

Sad, but true. Psalm 86:11 – 12 explains my quandary:

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart . . . I will glorify your name forever.

An undivided heart. My heart was divided between exercising for another person’s reasons or finding my own motivation. I’ve found that when it comes to my body, which 1 Corinthians 6:19 calls “a temple of the Holy Spirit,” that I can’t live with divided loyalties. I can either be loyal to honoring the Lord, my husband, and my body, or be loyal to my cravings, desires, and excuses for not exercising.

An Old Testament story in Haggai struck me with the problem that a divided heart creates before God. The Israelites were charged to take care of God’s physical temple by rebuilding the actual structure. But just like most of us, they struggled with a heart divided by concerns about the everyday needs of their city and homes. And so God’s people neglected building the temple for ten years. Each year, something else seemed to be more important.

Likewise, I found that my struggle to exercise got delayed by other things that seemed to be higher priorities. How could I find the time between raising kids, running a home, paying the bills, watching TV, and chatting on the phone with friends?

Just as God promised the Israelites blessings for obedience, he warned them of consequences for not rebuilding the temple as He desired. And while we may not feel the effects of ignoring our health immediately, our choices will eventually catch up to us.

I finally admitted that I needed to make time, just like the Israelites, to care for my temple — my body. So I began exercising consistently with a friend and discovered many motivating blessings. While I can’t say I’m always eager to jump out of bed and start my day in a sweat, I’m always refreshed with the alertness that comes once I’ve started. In addition, my friend and I find time to process life, contemplate decisions, and talk about what God is teaching us. I love the feeling of accomplishment each day. Even if everything else in my day falls apart, I can smile and say, “Yes, but with the Lord’s help, I ran this morning.”

I fully realize that my temple may not be God’s most grand dwelling. However, I want to lift up my willingness to the Lord and dedicate my exercise as a gift to Him and myself. This one act un-divides my heart and reminds me of the deeper purposes for moving my body.

How might you start rebuilding your temple today? Maybe running is not your thing. No problem. I say the best exercise for you is the kind you’ll do.

Day 9: I could never give up that!

Thought for the Day: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22 – 23)

Self-control is hard. We don’t like to deny ourselves. We don’t think it’s necessary. We make excuses and declare, “That’s nice for someone else, but I could never give up ____________!” (fill in the blank: soda, sugar, cupcakes, smoking . . .)

If we’re relying on ourselves, that excuse may be true. But there’s another level to self-control that too few of us find. In Matthew 19:23 – 24, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven . . . it’s easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

In other words, Jesus was saying that it’s hard for people who are satisfied with the things of this world to deny themselves. It’s hard for someone who is rich with excess to deny herself and be humble enough to admit, “I must give this up.” When the disciples heard this teaching, they were confused until Jesus clarified; “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (verse 26).

Maybe you’ve heard verse 26 spoken in the common context that God can make us healthy, wealthy, and get us to a new breakthrough. We tend to think of it as saying, “With God, all good things are possible! With God, all lavish things are possible!” But if you study this verse in the original context, it actually means, “With man, it is impossible to deny yourself. With man, it is impossible to make sacrifices. With man, it is impossible to have self-control. But with God, all sacrificial things are possible. With God, all self-control is possible.”

I believe this one little shift in our thinking can make us feel empowered, instead of feeling denied. Rather than giving in to the foods we crave, we can have God’s self-control to make a completely different decision, such as a decision for health . . . a decision for renewed energy . . . a decision for confidence and peace. Most importantly, a decision that honors both our body and God!

Day 8: I’ll start again on Monday

Thought for the Day: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you with expectation.” (Psalm 5:1 – 3)

“I’ll start again on Monday” are the ill-fated words that I’m certain have passed through every woman’s mind since the beginning of time. Whether it’s an excuse regarding our diet, exercise, temper, or devotional time, this phrase cycles through our lives on a regular basis. Or, is it just me?

For example, on a Saturday morning, I head down to my kitchen vowing to do better, eat healthier, and make good choices, only to have my resolve melt like the icing on the cinnamon rolls my daughter pulls from the oven. So I conclude the weekend is the worst time to begin eating healthier and tell myself, “I’ll start again on Monday.”

However, I find myself nagged by the subtle feeling of defeat, disappointment, and frustration. This crushing cycle of powerlessness that I’ve come to hate continues. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wander around on a fruitless path unable to enter into the abundant life God has for me.

Today I challenge you to start a new cycle of making God your focus, rather than food. Each time you crave something you know isn’t part of your plan, use that craving as a prompting to pray. I crave a lot. So I’ve found myself praying a lot. Potato chips and brownies now prompt me to pray! God gave us the gift of prayer to turn our times of desperation into relationship opportunities with Him. This cycle is far more promising than distancing ourselves from His goodness with our own sense of self-loathing and defeat.

For example, when we make God our focus, we can wake up in the morning and say “God, I want a biscuit this morning. Instead, I’m eating poached eggs. I’m thankful for these eggs, but I’ll be honest in saying my cravings for other things are hard to resist. But instead of wallowing in what I can’t have, I’m making the choice to celebrate what I can have.”

What better way to live than fully in today rather than always looking to start over on Mondays!

Day 7: Finding my beautiful

Thought for the Day: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know a woman alive who is completely happy with her body. No woman I’ve met has ever said, “I eat healthy, I exercise, and I love the way I look 100 percent.” Not me, and I doubt you do either. Some perceived flaws are related to weight. But just as often, we find imperfections that exercise can’t cure, such as body shape, height, genetics, or signs of aging.

We tend to focus on what we see wrong with our bodies, including negative impressions and comments that stick with us from childhood. In middle school, weight wasn’t my biggest concern, but rather my ankles . . . yes, my ankles! A boy I liked once called them “tankles.” You bet that left a scar.

I will always have cellulite, stand 5’7 {dec63}, and have a low waistline. In the grand scheme of life, I know these are shallow concerns. But if I allow my brain to park in a place of dissatisfaction about my body, it gives Satan room to strip me of motivation by whispering, “Your body is never going to look the way you want it to look, so why sacrifice so much? Everyone eventually falls apart. Your discipline is in vain.” That’s why I have to seek the Lord’s perspective, such as the reminder in Psalms:

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name . . . and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1 – 5)

I’ve learned through God’s Word that the body He gave me is good. It’s not perfect, nor will it ever be on this side of eternity. But my body is a gift, a good gift for which I can be thankful. Being faithful in taking care of this gift and walking according to God’s plan gives me renewed strength to keep a healthy view of my body.

God didn’t curse my body with tankles and cellulite, and He has not cursed you. When I chose to view my body is as a good gift from God, I thanked Him for making me just the way I am. He revealed some benefits of my larger ankles, such as: I can hike with my husband, stand cheering for my kids at multiple sporting events, chase my dog through the yard, and never have a sprained ankle. Oh, what freedom! What redemption! What a sweet gift! I am able to look at those airbrushed, skinny-ankled women on TV or on the magazine covers and be happy for them without loathing myself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” I’ve found my beautiful. And I like my beautiful. I don’t have to hold my beautiful up to other people’s bodies with a critical eye of judgment. I pray that you see your beautiful today and enjoy the blessings of the body that God gave you.

Day 6: Friends don’t let friends eat before thinking

Thought for the Day: It’s possible to muster up the occasional gumption to avoid the slippery slope of compromising a diet. But more often than not, we need measures of accountability. For me, one of the most effective accountability measures has been mutually tracking progress with a friend.

I love the song by the Supremes that says, “Stop, in the name of love, before you break my heart. Think it over.” Who would have thought this classic tune could apply to so much more than a girlfriend warning her wayward beau? Contained within the melody is a powerful statement that applies to many areas of our life: Think it over. I wonder how many bad choices and severe consequences could have been averted if that three-word statement had been applied.

Sometimes we can muster up the gumption to think it over on our own and avoid the slippery slope of compromise. But more often than not, we need measures of accountability. For me, one of the most effective accountability measures has been mutually tracking progress with friends.

For instance, I have a friend who started eating healthy ahead of me, and she’s been an invaluable source of encouragement. She was the first to challenge me, “Lysa, if you do this healthy eating plan, it will work.” I clung to her statement when I had those really hard moments
of temptation.

My friend served as a voice of reason and stability, assuring me that my new lifestyle choices would be worth it and get easier. Plus, I hated the thought of having to admit that I hadn’t persevered when she asked. If she could press through her hard days, then so could I.

Another friend started a healthy eating plan along with me. We both knew it would be hard, so we committed to pray for one another as well as hold each other accountable. Each day, we talked about what we’d be eating. Every week, we reported our weight to one another. We processed each struggle and helped each other battle temptation.

While I cannot expect anyone else to make my decisions for me, it was motivating to know that someone else cared about my struggles. We encouraged each other with this motto, “If it’s not part of our plan, we don’t put it in our mouths.”

I never thought I could leave my old eating habits full of potatoes, white bread, pasta, rice, chips, brownies, and other sugary delights. I didn’t think I’d last a day. But watching my friend’s success and having my other friend willing to sacrifice with me gave my brain the permission to stop — in the name of love — and think it over.

Day 5: Desperation breeds defeat

Thought for the Day: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I was walking through the airport when an incredible aroma suddenly grabbed my attention and taunted, “Do you know how happy I can make you?” A candy shop had just made a fresh batch of
nutty, caramel popcorn.

I felt my knees get weak, because I love caramel popcorn. I started to rationalize buying this special, thinking, “I can’t get this flavor at home, and I’ll take half home to my kids.” In that moment, a new truth God taught me during my healthy eating journey popped into my mind and saved the day: desperation breeds defeat.

In the book of Genesis, the Bible tells an interesting story about twin brothers who illustrate this point. The elder son, Esau, was favored by his father, Isaac, because of his prowess as a hunter. In contrast, the younger son, Jacob, was a quiet homebody. One day, Esau returned home from an unsuccessful hunting trip totally famished, and demanded some stew from his brother. “I’ll give you food,” agreed Jacob, “but first, trade me your birthright.” Esau replied, “Okay, I’m so
hungry, I’m about to die.” So Esau traded the honors due to him as the firstborn son for a simple meal of stew.

Upon first glance, it’s easy to ridicule Esau’s decision. I cannot imagine selling your whole birthright for a pot of soup. But I had to look at my own life and ask, “What great thing have I traded for so little in return? How often do I trade healthy food for junk food? What temporary pleasure have I craved so much that I gave up lasting victory?”

Desperation does indeed breed defeat. But God promises answers for desperate situations in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The “way out” that God provides is the ability to decide in advance what I will and will not eat each day. I plan my meals right after breakfast when I’m feeling full and satisfied. The absolute worst time for me to decide what I’m going to eat is when I’ve waited until I’m depleted and feeling hungry. So I prepare a healthy snack to have on hand or keep in my purse.

When I’m unprepared or I’ve rushed through a proper meal, my stomach screams for something quick. And quick options usually come in a variety of unhealthy temptations, just as I experienced at the airport. However, that day I had decided ahead of time that I would keep an apple in my purse for a snack, rather than trade my healthy progress for something like caramel popcorn.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying that we should flee food. However, we must prevent the control that food can take over our lives. If we purposely begin to think before we eat, we’ll be better able to see the way out that God promises when we are tempted.

Day 4: Are cravings chasing you?

Thought for the Day: Are your cravings a curse or a blessing? The answer to that question depends on what you’re craving, because what we’re craving will always depend on whatever we’re consuming. Is it the object of our desire, or God and His truth?

A well-known weight loss company recently ran a television ad about a little orange monster chasing a woman throughout her day, tempting her with foods that obviously weren’t part of her healthy eating plan. This ad perfectly captures what it feels like to be harassed by cravings all day long. It’s a scenario that has defined the greater part of my adult life.

I believe God made us to crave. Now, before you think this is some sort of cruel joke by God, let me assure you that the object of our craving was never supposed to be food, sex, money, or chasing after significance.

Think of Eve’s temptation in the garden of Eden. While the object that enticed her might have been an apple, the core of her struggle was that she wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil. The very downfall of humanity was caused when the first woman surrendered to a craving to eat something she wasn’t supposed to eat, and to pursue a power that she was never intended to wield. But it doesn’t stop there. Look at how Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4:

After fasting forty days and forty nights . . . Satan came to Jesus and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (vv. 2 – 4)

Satan tried to appeal to Jesus’ physical craving for food. But here’s the significant difference between Eve and Jesus. Eve was saturated in the object of her desire. Jesus was saturated in God’s truth. Jesus had been in a desert fasting for forty days. But He held strong and set a powerful example of how to escape the vicious grip of temptation. When we feel deprived and consumed with wanting unhealthy choices, we too can rely on the truth of God’s Word to help us.

With each of Satan’s temptations, Jesus quoted Scripture without hesitation to refute that temptation. Truth is powerful. The more saturated we are with truth, the more powerful we’ll be in resisting our temptations. And the more we’ll naturally direct our cravings where they should be directed — to the Author of all truth.

As we read in Matthew 4:8 – 10:

[T]he devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ “

Are cravings a curse or a blessing? The answer to that depends on what we’re craving. And what we’re craving will always depend on whatever we’re consuming . . . either the object of our desire or God and His truth.

Day 3: Excuse me, pass the shame … please

Thought for the Day: We were made for more! More than this failure . . . more than this cycle . . . more than being ruled by our taste buds, body image, rationalizations, and guilt. We were made for victory. Sometimes we just have to find our way to that truth.

More than once, I’ve held the latest, greatest, diet book in one hand with my other hand wedged into the back pocket of my ever-tightening jeans. But the thought of taking the plunge and signing up for another diet made me want to sit down and cry. I’d return the book to the shelf, toss my head back, and sigh, “Another day, another time. I’m doing the best I can right now.”

It is so tempting to quit the health struggle entirely and pretend it doesn’t really matter spiritually. But it does matter and not just for the physical or emotional setbacks. It’s the denial of a fundamental spiritual truth. What is this truth?

Your parents might have said it to you when you got sassy and disrespectful . . .
“More is expected of you. You aren’t a brat, so don’t act like one.”

Your teacher might have said it to you when turned in a halfhearted term paper . . .
“You have more potential as a student than what you’ve shown here.”

Your friends have definitely said it when your loser boyfriend dumped you . . .
“He didn’t deserve you. You’re worthy of a better love than he could offer.”

Today, your heavenly Father is telling you the same truth: “You were made for more!” More than this failure . . . more than this cycle of defeat . . . more than being ruled by taste buds, body image, rationalizations, guilt, and shame. You were made for victory.

Ephesians 1:18 – 19 says: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

This truth is a great script to play in our heads every time we’re tempted with guilt, rationalizations, or the “I’ll-do-better-tomorrow” escape clauses. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’m good in every other area.”
  • “I’ll do better tomorrow.”
  • “For heaven’s sake, everyone has issues. So what if food is mine?”

Addressing our thinking is one of the most crucial steps toward permanent progress in any area and stopping the cycle of shame and defeat. We have to rewrite those negative scripts by getting into the habit of saying truth. And, the first of these truths is, “I was made for more.” Wrapped in this truth is a wisdom and revelation that unlocks great power.

We need a power beyond our frail attempts and fragile resolve. We need strength greater than our taste buds, hormones, temptations, and our inborn female demand for chocolate. Yes, the truth of who we are and the power to live out that truth — that’s what we need. So, say it out loud with me today: I was made for more!

Day 2: Overweight physically and underweight spiritually

Thought for the Day: God made us capable of craving so we’d have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone. Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only One capable of satisfying them.

My journey to healthy eating didn’t gain traction by counting calories or obeying rules of the food pyramid. The process began in earnest when I admitted that, yes, I was overweight physically. But, more importantly, I was underweight spiritually. I was spiritually malnourished. Tying these two issues together is what opened my eyes to see God in a whole new way.

I’m reminded of the story in the Bible where a rich young man comes to see Jesus. The young man explains that he is following all the religious rules, but still feels something is missing from his pursuit of God. He asks, “What do I still lack?” Jesus answers, “If you want to be perfect [whole], go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:20 – 21 NIV).

The rich young man then goes away sad because he won’t give up the one thing that consumes him. He is so full with his riches he can’t see how undernourished his soul is. It’s at this point in the biblical story that most of us start to look at all the rich people we know and think, “Well, I sure hope they get this message. Good thing I’m not rich. Good thing Jesus doesn’t ask me to sacrifice in this way.” Or does He?

Jesus meant His comment for any of us who wallow in whatever abundance we have. I imagine Jesus looked straight into this young man’s soul and said, “I want you to give up the one thing that you crave more than Me.”

For me, I was like the rich young man when it came to eating. I refused healthier breakfast options, such as egg whites and fruit, while filling myself with candy-sprinkled doughnuts. I choose soda instead of water, chips instead of carrot sticks. Even when my sugar high crashed and I complained of splitting headaches, sluggishness, and unwanted extra weight, I steadfastly refused to even consider giving up my daily brownie.

God made us capable of craving so that we’d have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone. Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only One capable of satisfying them.

Paul wrote to Christians, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV).

I don’t know about you, but to me this one benefit of knowing God better is worth all the effort and sacrifice that a healthy eating journey requires. It’s easy to feel that our struggle with food is such an unfair deal. But I encourage you to see the process today as a path that offers both physical and spiritual benefits.

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