Recently, I hit two major milestones. I turned forty-five years old, and I lost some weight that I’ve been struggling with since my fortieth birthday. Although this post includes my weight loss journey, it’s really not about the weight itself. Truly, I care much less about the number on a scale than about my overall health, strength and well-being, and I’ve learned some important life lessons during this process that have even more benefit than my downward trend in pounds.
The first important lesson might seem like an obvious one, but it’s one that I somehow sidestepped for years: truth is necessary for growth and healing.
I had two different liars that I allowed to have much too big a voice in my head. My eyes, for one, are often deceptive. They don’t see portion sizes accurately. I know this now, because I’ve learned to weigh and measure food. It was tedious at first, but it has helped me to train my eyes for truth. I’ve now redefined what I once thought was a healthy-sized portion, and I’ve clarified what “balanced nutrition” means too, because portion sizes vary according to their food value to our bodies. (A bowl of salad and a bowl of ice cream are not equals on opposite sides of an equation, even in the same sized bowl.)
My other big liar is my feelings. They lie bigtime. And often. I may feel hungry, because I’m bored, tired, stressed, sad or any other number of emotions that are not actually the same as being hungry, because my body needs fuel or nutrition. My feelings, however, will lead me to believe that I need food when I don’t, or even that I deserve food…to make me feel better.
Food is fuel. It’s energy and nutrition for your body, mind and their functions. It is gas in your tank, so you can move forward with your greatest ability and live your purpose fully. It’s great for me to challenge myself with the question: “what am I using the food for, and is it bringing glory to God?”
Food is a gift from God, given to us as plants and animals (see Genesis 1:29, Genesis 9:3) When we understand it as a gift, it becomes clear that food is a tangible expression of God’s love for us. As theologian Norman Wirzba puts it, food is “God’s love made edible.”
I love that, and it makes me want to respect the truth in that statement. It changes the way I look at food, and it clears my vision and feelings and aligns them with truth. He gave me life, he gave me the body I have, and he gives me food to sustain it…because he loves me. I can love him well in return by receiving and valuing these gifts and treating them with the respect they deserve.
If I want to respect food and use it as God intended, surely I have to understand it. That’s not as easy as we might think. Marketing companies and a gluttonous American culture have done a number on our accurate understanding of food, health and nutrition overall. Lobbyists, government and major corporations have made millions lying to us about what healthy food is or even what it looks like. Even “healthy” companies lure us in with protein powders, food supplements and smoothies of all kinds. It takes work, research and information to understand it all properly (and I’m still learning every day!)
It all still boils down to making smart and balanced choices…and knowing our boundaries – what’s enough and what’s too much? We can try all the shortcuts and crazy promises to look a particular way without the discipline or work, but none of them will last long-term without knowing how our bodies burn food calories and how many calories we need to achieve our intended goal. We simply need to know our bodies, what they need and how they work.
For me, it took some education in the form of a calorie-counting app. It’s the first time I’ve ever counted calories, and I totally thought it would be a huge chore, put me in bondage forever and make me hate food. Surprisingly, it’s done the opposite!
The app has taught me where calories come from, and I can see from day-to-day how they affect my body (because I’m also weighing myself regularly.) I understand my limits now, and I’m free to make choices how I get to those limits. Hear me now when I tell you I haven’t given up ANYTHING. (Granted, I don’t have any food allergies or addictions, and I’ve always eaten sorta-kinda healthy-ish.) I still say yes to pizza on occasion. A cupcake is still a great gift. My love of wine has not diminished, and I still enjoy some fairly regularly. All in good, healthy quantity, all balanced with mostly healthy choices and daily exercise (nothing hard-core, but a good healthy sweat!) Some days a dessert is “worth it.” Some days it’s not. Now I know enough to decide for myself and understand any trade-offs. I feel like I have POWER, and it’s a sustainable lifestyle too!!! (Knowledge IS power, you know!)
And yet, with that power, my goal is to be humble and to submit to God’s design. The challenge I hit at forty certainly isn’t unique to me! (Because YOU know exactly what I’m talking about, right?!)
My body is different now, at my age, and after carrying and birthing two children. My metabolism has slowed. Nothing is quite as high as it once was, in terms of placement and position. I don’t have the level of energy I once did, and I have found that I can’t multitask quite as many things as I once could in my thirties. And, by the way, I’m perfectly healthy.
Everything has slowed just a bit. And I wonder if it’s intentional?
I’ve given thought to and can’t help but consider that maybe God does this for our own good? We come into this world defenseless and totally dependent on others. We’re more vulnerable and therefore we’re forced to trust others – typically our own parents. We accept what they say as truth.
As we age, we begin a gradual process of slowing down, and we can’t count on ourselves, our own bodies and minds, like we used to. We must learn to stop relying completely on ourselves and begin to trust others again to help us. We are slowly humbled again as we become more dependent. And it actually becomes easier (and perhaps more necessary) to trust the Lord.
Could His design for us be SO loving that it actually makes it easier to draw nearer to Him? It sure seems like something a loving God would do.
I finally succumbed to this thought about four months ago. I stopped trying to do things “my way” (whatever that was!!?!) and I decided to trust God just a little bit more, just a little bit deeper. I decided to actually believe that He is as good and loving as I say I believe He is. If He designed our bodies to go through this process, there is a purpose and a reason for it…and it MUST be for our good somehow.
So, I began to re-orient around this, and accept this truth…and my new normal as a woman in my mid-forties, who believes fully that my Creator is perfect and loving and always there for me.
Then… He opened my eyes. He changed my feelings. He guided me to truth and knowledge, and He strengthened me to make good choices.
And I did.
And I reached my goal and have now even surpassed my original goal.
And I feel fantastic.
But not just because I’m carrying less weight on my frame.
It’s because I’m wiser about my loving God…and more thankful too, in all circumstances. I’ve experienced more of who He is, and I’ve experienced another victory in life through Him.