“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” — 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
Let’s just get real right away: I really struggle with discipline.
For whatever reason, I find it incredibly difficult to form good habits and implement self-control in certain areas of my life. I don’t know why it seems to come so easily to some people and yet it’s so frustratingly hard for me. What do you have a hard time being consistent with? Bible study time? prayer? being financially wise? being kind? sharing the Gospel? I’ve struggled with all of those, but the current thorn in my side is exercise and healthy eating.
Life is full of opportunities to reveal the character of God through our diligence and good work ethic, and I drop the ball way too often because I forget that my actions reflect the God I follow. I kind of sidestep idleness, like it doesn’t really count as an actual sin. The bad thing is that this communicates to other people that there are certain things in our lives that God doesn’t take too seriously.
As if He just shakes His head at our laziness, smiles, rolls his eyes, and says, “Oh, you.”
We can’t afford to believe that God overlooks the “little” things. And for me, one of those “little” things is being disciplined, specifically related to taking care of my body. It’s something I have let slowly destroy me because I’ve convinced myself for years that worshiping food isn’t as bad as worshiping money or sex or fame.
But it is.
It’s so PAINFUL for me to admit this. I don’t want to believe it, but I have to. Because it’s literally killing me. You don’t have to be 200 pounds overweight to have a problem. My weight isn’t the issue – it’s my mindset. I might look fine on the outside, but deep down, I know that if junk is all I put in, my insides will start to wear out. I can’t maintain the same lifestyle habits and just expect my body to keep up.
I had a moment with the Lord at church this last week. He had been tugging at me for a long time, continuing to remind me that this was something He wanted to talk to me about. And every time He did (until this week), I would pray a quick prayer like: “God, I’m sorry for eating unhealthy again. I know this is something I need to change. I feel bad about it, and I’ll try better next week.” But that never solved anything, because simply admitting your guilt does nothing. After the sermon, everyone stood back up to sing, but I just sat where I was, my head hung low, knowing that I couldn’t ignore Him forever.
“Okay God. I feel like we’ve done this same song and dance a hundred times, and you’re probably tired of hearing it because I never do what I say I’ll do. But I know I have to talk to you about this.”
—Why do you think this is so difficult for you? What’s the root of it?
I had never really stopped to think about it before. I never had an eating disorder, and I never really ate with an emotional motivation (i.e. sadness). I wasn’t overeating and making myself sick or becoming severely overweight. So what was it? I wanted it to be simple. I didn’t want to have to think about it, I just wanted it to go away. “Umm…I just love food?”
—I want this. I want the things you cling the most tightly to, the things you don’t want to give up. Why won’t you let Me have this one?
“Because I want what I want, when I want it.”
My eyes were finally opened. “…….because…I worship food instead of you.”
Tears dripped from my eyes and fell into my lap. How had I never realized it before? Could I really be worshiping food instead of God?
His voice was so soft. You took something I created and made it way too important. Food is good, but it’s not better than Me.
I let out a deep breath I didn’t even know I’d been holding, reeling from this revelation.
I made food my god. What??
I’ve spent so much time telling other people things like “You’re always worshiping something” and “Wanting something isn’t enough of a reason for you to have it,” but I never applied those truths to myself because I refused to see food as my object of worship. As I sat in that seat, though, a whirlwind of thoughts flashed through my head – all of the times I’ve gotten overly excited about going out to eat, how disappointed I’ve been when we couldn’t go to a certain restaurant, how I’ve flat-out refused to eat healthy options, how I’ve kept eating even after I was full just because I liked what I was eating so much, and even a quote from my own lips only a few days ago. Daniel was trying to motivate me to eat better while at Chick Fil A, and was preventing me from eating my sister’s fries. Frustrated, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “Stop making me choose between you and french fries!!”
It was funny, but also not…because part of me wasn’t kidding. We laughed about it, but in some dark corner of my mind, it really was a choice between making Daniel happy and making myself happy, and if left to my own devices, I would choose me over him. And even though I chose him, I made sure he knew I wasn’t happy about it. I wanted those french fries so much that I allowed my day to be temporarily ruined because I couldn’t have them.
How childish am I?? How embarrassing. Seriously, why in the world.
Later in the day, I had another quiet moment alone with my thoughts. I started feeling sorry for myself, wondering things like Why does it seem so easy for everyone else but me? Why can’t I just eat whatever I want? Why can’t I be young(er) and skinny(er) again? Why do metabolisms have to even slow down?? It’s just not fair. I threw myself a five-minute pity party before remembering something my mom said once: “It doesn’t matter if it’s fair. It is what it is.” And she’s right (of course). It doesn’t matter if it’s fair. I can’t eat whatever I want, and that was never God’s intention. Period.
So okay. I finally figured out the root of the problem. But now what? How do I keep from backsliding into my old apathetic habits?
After taking some time to think and pray, I came up with an idea. If you want to develop a new habit and experience a real heart transformation, I think you have to understand three things:
1. the purpose (why you’re doing it),
2. the plan (how you’re going to do it), and
3. the product (the results/benefits of doing it).
(And all the 3-point pastors said? *Amen* Haha.)
For example, if I want to replace my bad eating habits with good ones, I must have a good reason and an effective strategy:
— My purpose is that I don’t want to die and leave Daniel a widower at 50. I want to live a long, healthy life for my husband and any kids we have. AND, more importantly, God gave me this body, and He put me in charge of taking care of it.
— My plan is to incorporate at-home exercise into my week through a work-out video, to plan out my meals and keep myself from buying unhealthy ingredients on a whim, and set achievable goals for myself with non-food rewards at the end of the line. I’m going to devote more time to praying about this specific challenge, and pick out verses of encouragement to think about when I have unhealthy cravings. I’m also going to start a DietBet, which I’ll talk more about later.
— Finally, the results and benefits are that my body is stronger, I lose weight, I feel better, and I’m taking responsibility for the body God entrusted to me and treating it well.
Will it be easy? Absolutely not, I already know it will suck in the beginning. But the longer I do it, the easier it will become. (I hope. If it doesn’t, just shut up and don’t tell me.) My problem is that I’ll try to break a habit, fail, and give up too easily, convincing myself that I can’t move forward. But that’s as logical as saying, “Well, I missed a meal; I guess I’ll just stop eating.” If you miss a quiet time, don’t just quit having one. If you have an unhealthy day, don’t give up on your diet.
Ultimately, the root of my discipline problem, as much as it sucks to admit it, is that I consider what I want to be more important than what God wants. We all do it; we’re selfish messed-up people. But a true encounter with God should result in a heart change, including in the area of self-discipline. My flesh will try to rebel, but that’s when I have to remember that God controls my heart, and He is way stronger than my flesh.
If you’ve made it this far, I humbly ask that you would join me on your knees before God sometime and pray. I believe that nothing is too small or silly to pray about, and I will need lots of prayer and encouragement. Another more tangible way I want to kickstart this
nightmare adventure is through a DietBet! They spin it like it’s a game, which makes it sound way more fun than calling it “diet and exercise.” Basically, you bet yourself (and anyone else who joins) that you can lose a certain amount of weight in a certain period of time. Whoever participates puts actual money in the pot, and after four weeks, whoever loses 4% of their body weight splits the money! At the very least, you win your own bet back, but sometimes you can win more! Money is a great motivation for me at this point because the more money I put in, the harder I’ll work to make sure I don’t lose it. And either way, even if I don’t win more money than I put in, I’ll be 4% healthier.
The game lasts from August 2nd – 29th, and initial weigh-in is July 31-Aug. 1, so you’ve got to decide pretty quick. If you had even the tiniest thought like “Maybe I could do that…” shoot across your brain, DON’T IGNORE IT. I have spent way too long making excuses about getting healthy, like waiting until I get pregnant or – even worse – seriously sick. I can’t afford to wait anymore, and neither can you. Get in on this game – I’m already dreaming about our success stories.
If you’re interested in joining me while I get healthy again, click here to become part of my game!
Any tips for this ‘journey-to-health’ beginner?