I’m sure I first heard about Teresa Shields Parker last fall at the Taste For Truth Support Group, and I immediately ordered her book, Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor. Her battle with sugar addiction resonated with me greatly and I just could not get it out of mind.
For a while now, I’ve felt a gentle prodding from the Lord to give up refined sugar/flour indefinitely. I would dabble with it, and then cave with the mentality of “everything in moderation”. Moderation may be effective for some people… maybe even most people (though I doubt it based on my personal observations), but it is a real problem for me.
When I read Teresa’s book (as well as Bright Line Eating around the same time), conviction stirred in my soul. Sometimes you just know you will never see things the same again, this was one of those moments for me. While I knew I couldn’t continue as though I didn’t know better, I still grappled with the thought of never having sweets again. You see, I wanted to “have my cake and eat it too”… or better yet, I wanted to be fit, trim, and healed from Hashimoto’s while eating cake too.
With this conviction nagging me, I tried to buckle down harder with the boundaries I was keeping at the time (Weight Watcher’s Freestyle). I figured then I could release weight, “cut back” on refined sugar/flour, but not have to eliminate it altogether. I could keep the foods I loved most (which was obviously still way too important to me). Unfortunately, I still felt lousy, and to make matters worse, I would release weight for a couple of weeks, then it would bounce back up with a hormonal fluctuation and take a couple more weeks to bring it back down… just in time for a repeat of the cycle. And yes, I was keeping my WW points boundary.
So, now, I physically could not release weight while still eating certain things – even in moderation. This angered me. That may sound really awful, but let’s be honest, I was angry. Mentally, I rationalized and justified my position on the matter (moderation). Physically, I continued to eat the very things I knew would cause me harm. Spiritually, I ached with the nagging feeling I was being mastered by something other than God.
Reality check: If you are vehemently against giving up something, even to your benefit, it’s time to consider addiction as an underlying possibility.
I’ve heard people saying addiction isn’t real and that it’s really just a spiritual issue. I’ll not deny, there is a spiritual aspect to it for sure, but to say it is only spiritual is to ignore what happens in my brain when I eat refined sugar/flour. We are three part beings, and I would go so far as to say it is physical, mental, and spiritual. I believe all three must be addressed.
Earlier this year, I read Every Body Matters:Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul (Gary Thomas) and was even further convicted by my obvious disregard for my health (per my actions anyway). Still, refined sugar/flour caused cravings I felt powerless to ignore. I kept thinking about Teresa’s story and wondering if maybe I could admit that I had a problem with refined sugar/flour. Like really admit it. I’ve said I was addicted to it before, but I didn’t want this to be like every other time. I wanted to be sure I was ready to let go of it forever if need be.
The desire for physical change in this area surrounding refined sugar/flour was great. I wanted to alter what I ate and my activity level for the better. I had already been dealing with my mind for over two years (three years this month), so I was addressing the mental aspect… and even the spiritual as I renewed my mind with God and His Word.
And yet, I did not realize one crucial element was missing… that is, until I listened to Pastor John’s Four Signs Food has Become an Idol podcast. I came face to face with my sin regarding certain foods as he discussed the following:
- gluttony – sinful enjoyment of God’s gift of food
- disordered loves
- ceasing to exalt Christ (or exalting food above Him)
- contentment in God fades and food takes its place
These were concepts which jumped out at me; However, his list of evidences that food has become an idol struck my inner being with such deep conviction:
- We become indifferent to the harmful effects that food is having on the temple of the holy spirit – our body.
- We become indifferent to the way we steward our money as we spend unwisely on wrong foods.
- We start using food as an escape from our problems and a kind of medication for our sadness, or misery, or discomfort.
- We stop enjoying food as a way of enjoying God… we start replacing the goodness of God with the goodness of food.
I was missing the element of agreement with God over my sin. Saying gluttony is a sin is far different than believing gluttony is sinful. The picture he painted was a broken one and I had to admit it was me. Contemplating my long track record of chasing after “disordered loves” showed how undeserving I am of God’s grace. I could no longer look at those “loves” with affection. I saw them as the false gods they had become and couldn’t rationalize it away any longer. The shame makes me nauseous even as I type all these months later.
While undeserving, I knew I desperately wanted and needed His grace. Praise God His grace is available and sufficient. Even still, I could not continue in the way I had gone. Comprehending His grace, even on my finite human level, has a way of compelling one to want to change. I simply could not ignore it. So, I laid aside refined sugar/flour and bowed at His feet in repentance. “I’ll give it up forever if I need to”, I told Him. Why? Not because I believe those things are sinful in and of themselves, but because they had taken a position in my life that wasn’t theirs and wasn’t beneficial.
I began asking, “What is beneficial?” in the area of food, and allowing this to dictate my food choices. I even downloaded the book recommended in the podcast and started through it. I had intended to go straight to the chapter on gluttony, but have been moving through it slowly from the beginning and allowing God to teach me.
The other day, I was excited to see that Barb Raveling had interviewed Teresa Shields Parker about her 5 stages of the weightloss journey. I listened to it while I walked and having been without refined sugar/flour for 65 days, I found myself nodding in agreement a lot.
I’ve spent the most time in the first stage (Wishful Thinker), and while I’d like to think I’ve at least visited aspects of the next three in the past (Willing Owner, Watchful Learner, Wholehearted Traveler), I’m not sure. What I do know, I’ve never been in those stages as deeply as this time and I’ve certainly never been in the 5th one (Wise Overcomer).
Listening to Barb’s podcast made me realize that I “willingly owned” my addiction the day I heard Pastor John’s message on food idolatry. I didn’t do it because of peer pressure, my flesh desire to be thin, or worldly influence, it was because God had drawn me to a place of truth. Once faced with it, I couldn’t hand it over to Him fast enough. I knew I couldn’t fix it, that is God’s job, but I could take responsibility for my own actions.
Next comes the “watchful learner”, so I looked into strategies for dealing with sugar addiction and began to gather resources. I continued to renew my mind and remind myself that I do not want to be mastered by food. I personally don’t think I’ll ever abandon the “learner” phase because I do believe we continue to learn as we walk this journey no matter where we are in the stages. But this phase is certainly more focused at the beginning. Gathering information, learning from others who have overcome…etc.
From here, I moved forward yet another step to the “wholehearted traveler”, and if you’ve been following my “runner girl” posts, you’ve seen that my heart is definitely in this new path. I feel like I’ve been on a crash course of the wholehearted traveler phase with many challenges to navigate just in the first 60 days. I’ve chosen to grab the hand of Jesus and hang on for dear life. He tells me I can survive without refined sugar/flour and I believe Him. Standing strong in Jesus despite copious amounts of temptation has served to make me stronger still. Situations that would have sent me wallowing in a bag or box of something are much more manageable and less threatening.
I think the thing I liked most about Barb’s interview with Teresa was when she said that it typically takes 2 years of being in the “wholehearted traveler stage” before you reach “wise overcomer”. TWO YEARS! I’m sure that isn’t what most overweight people want to hear. We typically want to achieve as quickly as possible; but see, becoming “wise” in an area takes time. We must use the traveler stage to grow in wisdom and understanding… because all the knowledge in the world is useless without the wisdom to put it into practice. Of course, I’m only 65 days into my traveler stage, so I have plenty of wisdom yet to acquire.
That’s how I know this time is different for me, I wasn’t put off by the “two years” statement at all. God had already been embedding the mantra “for the long-haul” on my heart. So, I pictured how I might feel after two years of wholeheartedly sticking to my boundaries and trusting God for the transformation. I pictured a confident, stronger, contented, and yes, slimmer version of myself. My mind going straight to this visual made me realize I’m not gauging where I am on the journey by a destination number on the scale, but rather in the sum of many victorious days. I want to keep collecting because, one day, I want God to be able to say I’m a “wise overcomer”.