“He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and to test you for your own good. He did it so you would never think that it was your own strength and energy that made you wealthy.” ~Deuteronomy 8:16-17
A friend of mine recently asked me to post a “before and after” picture of my journey. I don’t show these pictures with pride. In no way do I want to take credit for my reformation. If anything, I’m embarrassed by how I looked for most of my life! I don’t have too many pictures of my entire body because I wanted to keep things face and up. But, certain pictures you can’t destroy, like the one on the left where we were thanking the church for praying for our son who had been through multiple surgeries in his little life. This was his dedication when he was seven months old. On the right is a picture of my husband and me before we left to celebrate my birthday dinner this past June. Sadly, the picture on the left wasn’t even at the peak of my highest weight, and I’m probably close to 10 lbs lighter than the picture on the right. But, it gives you an idea of just what God has done for me!
As I was digging back through old pictures, I remembered what it felt like to look like that. And my readings this morning were all about remembering and obeying. Deuteronomy 8:2 says “REMEMBER how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey His commands.”
I’ve heard all sorts of nasty comments about people who are overweight, like: if they would just stop eating, they wouldn’t look like that. But, until you experience it, you have no idea how difficult it is. I would liken it to seeing an animal stuck in a bear trap. Should they have avoided the route that led them there? Absolutely! But, are they hurting and do they need help? YES! I recently read that the combination of sugar and fat together is as addictive to the brain as crack cocaine. Once you have it, it’s extraordinarily difficult to not crave more and more and more of it. And, once you are bigger, it’s more painful and difficult to exercise. You don’t have the energy or the willpower. And being obese can also feel very isolating… you don’t have the desire to go to the beach with friends or be seen in certain social settings (or at least I didn’t). I was embarrassed, and I sought my comfort in food.
I was overweight most of my life. Eating large amounts of unhealthy food was “normal.” I thought that it was my burden to carry to just be obese forever. I really didn’t think that change was possible. I was without hope in this area. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to give up the good feeling that came with eating things I loved.
It wasn’t until I read the Bible study called “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore that I thought maybe I could change. If I believed God still worked miracles, could He make me healthy and thin for His glory? I prayed and asked. And I took my first step to read the Bible and start highlighting (in green) anything I read that pertained to being healthy. I was surprised at how much I found!
Each step forward was small. While I would have loved to go to bed fat and wake up thin, my experience has been a journey. Deuteronomy 8:3 goes on to say, “Yes, He humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life; real life comes by feeding on every word of the Lord.” I am still learning how to feast on God’s word and use food just for fuel and energy. I’m not yet where I’d like to be, but I can say without a doubt that God is working on me!
I started by reading my Bible every morning. It’s the first thing I do – before I eat breakfast. And I pray. These two were probably THE most important steps that I took toward learning discipline and changing my overall lifestyle. The next step I took was actually a series of smaller steps toward being healthy. When my second son was born, I tried to walk my kids around the neighborhood. I was huffing and puffing to make it on a slow walk on our streets. But, I told myself it wasn’t about being skinny. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted my loving husband to have a wife he could be proud of. I wanted my boys to have a Mom who could keep up with them. I wanted to be able to not feel the need to shy away from social settings because of how I looked. And I prayed and asked God to help give me strength.
While I had read tons of diet books and programs, I truly didn’t do a specific one. I knew about cutting carbs from the South Beach Diet program. I also tried some medifast snacks because they are low-calorie and high protein and more healthy than many snack foods on the market. But, I knew that long-term I wasn’t going to be able to follow any program too strictly for the rest of my life. I had to re-evaluate my goals. What was I seeking? The answer was that I wanted to be healthy long-term. So, I tried cutting back my portions, saying no to bread along with dinner, trying not to eat as late at night. It wasn’t the same each day, but as I felt God prompting me to say no to something, I would try to obey. I didn’t always do well, but each time I said no to something I wanted and didn’t really need, it felt like a HUGE victory. The scale didn’t always represent the victories I was seeing in my life, but sometimes it did. I had to keep reminding myself that it was about being healthy overall. I want my body, where God’s Spirit dwells, to be healthy and holy for His purposes and use.
I did exercise videos at home. I ran outside when the weather was nice. Eventually we even joined a gym. All those steps were great, but I quickly found that you can’t out-exercise poor eating habits. You have to learn moderation. You have to be willing to say no to overindulging. Exercise helps keep you healthy (and that IS my goal) so I continue to do it. I actually enjoy running now and have signed up for another half marathon and a full one. I also love the classes at my gym. But, it’s not about the exercise. It’s not about the eating. It’s about God’s inspiration and strength in my life to make me healthy for His glory.
You see, I could still eat an entire pizza myself. Most days I choose not to. But I don’t take it for granted that that’s God’s power in my life. I have no self-control apart from the fruit of His Spirit in me. I’m the most selfish and lazy person I know.
My devotions this morning were about remembering what God has done so that we continue to obey Him. That is the cry of my heart. I had to recognize that NOTHING is impossible for God. If I could be overweight for nearly 30 years and then see major successes in this area, then you can, too, IF you rely on His strength. Verse 17, which I posted above, says “He did it so you would never think that it was your own strength and energy that made you wealthy.” While I would love if it said “healthy” vs. “wealthy” the point is the same. It wasn’t my strength and energy but God who graciously saved me!
When my children were invited to go to a vacation Bible school at a local church, I researched the beliefs of the church (and then said no to the offer). One of the core beliefs on the website was that with Jesus’ ascension into heaven, all miracles on earth stopped. WHAT!?!?! I must (with all humility and respect) wholeheartedly disagree. With all glory to God, I will confess that I AM A MIRACLE!!!Does that mean I’m perfect? Far from it! I still struggle. I see what I would call “goddesses” at the gym and know that I’m nowhere close. But, I can jump into the average class and hold my own these days, which is something that I don’t take for granted. I don’t plan my day around when I’m going to eat or get headaches if I have less than multiple thousands of calories each day. I do still love food, but I’m learning that it’s a gift to be enjoyed rather than an idol to be worshiped. I’m trusting that God will see my journey to completion. I still rely on His strength each and every day to make choices to be healthy. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!
If you struggle in this area or can relate, may I humbly suggest that you press into God with everything you have? He can change you (your heart, your habits, and even your desires) if you allow Him to and rely on His strength. Really, that’s the only hope any of us has.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace. Thank You for being all-powerful and yet so loving. You know us and yet you love us anyway. You see us in our shortcomings, and You still surround us with Your holiness. We humbly give ourselves to You – our minds, our hearts and our bodies. Will You take us all and transform us to be the person who You want us to be? Will You help us be our best, for Your honor and glory? Will You use us to help others and take us out of slavery to food to the promised place of goodness? And may we never forget that it’s YOUR strength and Your energy that took care of us each step of our journey. May we not just say “thanks” when someone compliments us, but can we glorify You by obeying what Your Spirit asks of us? Thank You for continuing to work miracles today! We praise You and worship You! In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!
Wow! Valerie, what a journey you’ve been through. Thanks for sharing your story! You inspire me! I’m sure you’ve inspired many others as well! God bless!