I had been overweight for as long as I can remember. The pictures tell the story. By fourth grade I had chipmunk cheeks and extra padding. By sixth grade I was plain old fat. In fact, when I started middle school, I weighed more then I do now, as a 28 year old woman. There’s no delicate way to talk about it; there’s no sugar-coating the memories. I lost some weight in high school. That began a more than ten year roller coaster of weight loss, weight gain, rinse and repeat. My weight fluxuated in a 20 pound range. Try as I might, I could not get below the lowest number, a number beneath which I would finally be in the healthy weight range.
This summer, when my daughter was six months old, I decided to join Weight Watchers. I joined with a friend who had done the program a few years ago, successfully losing and keeping off over 80 pounds.
I’m happy to say that since the end of June, I’ve lost 15 pounds. I weigh less now than I did before getting pregnant, and I am finally in the healthy weight range. I’m two weeks away from becoming a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I’m not writing about this to garner your applause or to brag about how great I am, because honestly, the opposite is true. Rather, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned in the last six months of this journey, in the hopes it may be of use to someone reading today.
It’s not about the food. It’s about God.
If this whole thing were simply a matter of food and nothing deeper, I wouldn’t bother writing about it on a site such as this. However, the truth is, in the struggles with food that so many people share, the essential problem isn’t the food. The problem is with desire. That’s why all addictions are at root the same. God created all people with an intense desire; for Him. Because of sin, we don’t clearly see what our desire is for, but we feel it burn so strongly. God created us to crave Him as deeply as He desires us, with all-consuming Love. However, we give our desire to lesser goods, to lesser gods. That’s why all addictions are the same. Food, power, wealth, sex, drugs, etc. It’s all an attempt to meet our desire with something less than what it was made for.
Food is my drug of choice. My inclination is to turn to food when upset, happy, bored, or angry. Food was, and often still is, the thing that I want more than God. Of course it’s vulnerable to admit that. Of course my fingers tremble as I write it, wondering how you will judge me. But it’s true. God made me to find satisfaction, fulfillment, and transfiguration in Him, not in a chocolate bar. God never intends us to find our bliss in anything other than Him. Realizing this humbling, humiliating truth was the first step for me in learning to have an ordered relationship to food.
It’s not about willpower. It’s about self-control.
“What’s the difference”, you ask? Well, will-power is exactly that. The power of one’s own will to overcome temptation or stand up for what is right. Will-power relies on me and me alone, which means it is ultimately going to falter, since I am not perfect. Self-control, on the other hand, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Self-control is a gift of grace, acknowledging that I can’t turn down unhealthy choices on my own every single time they come my way. Self-control is a fruit of the humble and genuine admission that I need God, and that God is worth more to me than any delicious snack. Self-control says that I am wise enough to know who I am. I am a daughter of God and I find my comfort in Him, not in food. Self-control knowingly gives up something that is good, but not great, for the sake of growing close to God. Self-control is not fleeting, because it is a fruit of turning to prayer in moments of temptation.
In any journey of sustainable change, cultivation of self-control and not merely will-power, ought to be the goal.
I am this way for a reason.
Now that I’ve achieved my goal weight, I have to make peace with this fact: I will have to exercise at least three times a week and watch everything I eat for the rest of my life. I have a hormonal disorder that makes my body act in perpetual starvation mode, hanging on to every single calorie I eat. I’m a type II diabetic. That’s why it took me six months to lose 15 pounds.
This has been, and can be, a cause for bitterness and resentment. My husband can eat just about anything he desires, in any quantity, and remain very lean. I, when carefully portioning out my oatmeal in the morning, look at him spooning into the bowl with reckless abandon, jealously asking God why it’s so easy for him to be the way he is. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if I could just eat what I wanted, when I wanted, without having to worry? Well, no, it wouldn’t be. Because that’s not how God made me, and God knew what He was doing.
I firmly believe that God made me the way I am because He knew, even before I existed, that I would turn to food instead of Him. So He allowed me to have these disorders which have forced me to cultivate self-control in my relationship to food. He knew that unless I had to, unless my food choices affected my life in a visible way, I wouldn’t. I would not cultivate or exercise self-control. If I didn’t have the body type that I do, if I could eat all I want and not get fat, I would never turn to God, but would keep chasing the god of food down the rabbit hole for all eternity. It’s ugly, but it’s true.
As I’m settling into the “new normal” of portion measuring and continuing to seek self-control, I can begin to accept the truth. I know that my weight will not always be this number, as I hope to welcome more children. However, by taking these lessons to heart now, maybe I can impart to them a love for healthy food, and an even bigger love for the Bread of Heaven.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/DSCI0090-e1314014845215.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Sarah Babbs is a married mother of an 8 month old girl, writing from Indiana where she moved for love after growing up on the east coast. Sarah and her husband, a lawyer, lead marriage prep classes for their parish in addition to daydreaming about having chickens and becoming lunatic farmers. During stolen moments when the baby’s napping and the laundry is multiplying itself, Sarah writes about new motherhood, Catholic social thought, and ponders the meaning of being a woman “made in the image of God”. Her website is Fumbling Toward Grace.[/author_info] [/author]