by Donna Lee Schillinger
She who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich. Proverbs 21:17
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish woman devours all she has. Proverbs 21:20
Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor and drowsiness clothes them in rags. Proverbs 23:20-21
“When I was your age, I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight.” Sound familiar?
It’s true; not only could I eat anything I wanted, I did. And with no restraint on my food choices, I developed a keen sweet tooth and an “eat for the moment” mentality – a combination that on a three-times-a-day, all-you-can-eat meal plan at college netted me a 15-pound gain in my freshman year.
Most women will gain weight beginning at age 18. It’s how we go from a girlish figure to a woman’s figure and it happens whether we go to college or right into the work world or get married and start having babies. It’s a fact of life – the older we get, the slower our metabolism and thus, we gain weight. Some of us, more than others.
For several years now I have been trying and trying to drop 30 pounds. I put it on at a stressful time in my life, about ten years ago, and have not been able to get it off since. I can blame the stress for having gained the weight, but fit people live under a great deal of stress too.
Maybe my parents are to blame? There are a lot of things in life that we can legitimately credit or blame our parents for, and our eating patterns are among them. But just like all those other things, both good and bad, that we picked up from our parents, when we’re on our own, we have a choice to keep them or toss them out. It’s a lot easier to keep them than to shed 18 years of behavioral conditioning. Poor eating and exercise habits are most certainly worth the effort to change! Even if you are not overweight now, change those unhealthy patterns before they catch up with you. If you think reversing 18 years is hard, try changing 35 years of behavioral conditioning!
If I can’t entirely blame metabolism, stress or my childhood for my being chunky, what’s the real reason I’m overweight? I lack discipline. Said another way, I don’t get enough of a certain fruit in my diet: the fruit of the Spirit which is self-control. Don’t hate me for saying that. I don’t like to browbeat – and I’m making a confession about myself here (however accusatory it may sound to you). I know that there are a variety of physical conditions that can result in a person being overweight, and right now I’m not talking about people who have one of those. Most of us who struggle with weight simply don’t resist the things that tempt us: the sweets, pastas, breads, fried foods and junk foods. And on the flip side, we don’t exercise sufficiently to work off the calories in excess of what our bodies need as essential fuel.
Let’s not make light of what it takes to discipline oneself, however. I read the results of a seemingly silly little study some social scientist conducted once to prove a point about change. Researchers asked their subjects, people who worked at a desk with a garbage can on one side, to move their garbage can to the other side. Then they tallied how many times it took people to begin to automatically go to the side where the garbage can was to throw something away. For an average of 57 times, people turned toward the wrong side, the side where the trash can used to be, when throwing away their garbage. The point is that if something as simple as learning to toss a wad of paper to the left when you’re used to tossing to the right takes 57 tries before you get the hang of it, consider the effort and repetition needed to change eating habits of 18 or more years.
For this very reason, we need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to make lasting changes in our lives. In my own strength, I have lost (and gained back) about 500 pounds in 20-pound increments. I’ve begged for divine intervention, but with vanity as an underlying motive, it’s no wonder God has not come to my aid.
The first step in the right direction would be to align our desire to lose weight with the will of God for our lives. There are a number of books on the subject, but try starting with the Bible. A word study on “body” is quite revealing. Once we understand the spiritual importance of the physical body, we can treat weight loss like any other spiritual battle. As Christians, do we believe that we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength, or not? If so, we can lose weight and keep it off, with enough faith (Matt. 17:20). And the right food to achieve these results is the fruit of the Spirit, self control.
Self-control has obvious health benefits, but note now how our proverbs relate eating (and exercise) habits to prosperity. Solomon ties eating habits and income together with the common chord of self-control: “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:20-21). Yep, digesting this fruit of the Spirit will reflect favorably in everything from our waistlines to our bank accounts.
Hold this thought: If faith can move a mountain, it can certainly move some excess weight off of me.
Donna Lee Schillinger is the author of On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free and editor of the recent anthology Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off, a 2012 Christian Small Publisher’s Book of the Year. She founded On My Own Now to encourage faith, wise life choices and Christ-likeness in young adults. On My Own Now publishes the free, monthly online magazines, Single! Young Christian Woman and Genuine Motivation: Young Christian Man.