We've been at war for a long time, haven't we? Almost 50 years and counting by my latest reckoning. It frightens me that I can't remember a time when we weren't on the outs with each other. Is that why all the various eating approaches I've tried over those years never could deliver the unbearable lightness of being that I wanted you to become? Atkins, lots of those meal-replacement chocolate bars and cookies advertised in Seventeen, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Fit for Life, South Beach, all-protein, low carb, no carb, low-fat, the naturopathic plan, the 5-Day Miracle Diet, Dr. Ornish, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, and so on. With all the diet and fitness books and videos I've read, reviewed, watched, and whimpered through, I should have had a graduate degree in food psychology and nutrition!
I thought food would prove itself the ultimate weapon: targeted and therefore accurate to a fault, able to destroy without any collateral damage. But you knew something way back then that I've only just found out: You have never been my enemy and there's a risk with using food as a weapon—it turns on you.
My dysfunctional beliefs were actually my enemy. I didn't really believe that the Lord was (and is) my shepherd and therefore I am taken care of. I couldn't live out the truth of Romans 8:38, which tells me that nothing separates me from God's love. Too many years of wondering where God had been when life hurt had calcified my belief that I needed to do what it seemed God couldn't or wouldn't do. I needed to set my ailing parents on a steady retirement course, pain-free and financially sound. I needed to take care of, maybe even heal, my handicapped siblings. I needed to help my husband find his next job so I wouldn't have to remain the steady breadwinner. I needed to shower grace and mercy on in-laws who held me in contempt. Where was God when it mattered? I wondered, as I shouldered those burdens.
I never realized that perhaps a deeper emotional struggle was underlying my weight battles until the day I decided to actually answer Jesus' question: "What do you want me to do for you?" This is the question he asked Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, but it's also a question he asks each of us. That day, with clarity, I answered that question with no shame, guilt or self-judgment: I want to believe again. I want to believe that God knows what he's doing; that justice will flow like rivers and righteousness like a never-failing stream. I want to believe that Christ was and always will be enough. War requires two sides and I laid down my weapon that day. And body, you felt different—almost immediately.
So, body, from here on out, I'm trying to listen to you rather than my calorie counters or point charts or fears. I'll eat when I'm hungry for physical fuel and I'll eat to be satisfied. I know I need to learn what physical hunger feels like—I don't have a full grasp on that yet. But when I know it's my heart that's hungry, I'll trust that my heavenly Father waits for me to bring my heart to him for sustenance.: "Listen to me, and you will eat what is good," he reminds me through the prophet Isaiah. "You will enjoy the finest food."
So body, forgive me for the years of chosen famine—the years I subjected you to cycle after cycle of deprivation and diets. Remember how I'd binge at night, hoping my husband wouldn't catch me? Body, I despised you as much as I despised myself for going to bed every night thinking about what I'd have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day. I hated the belly fat and dimpled thighs you held on to no matter how many exercise regimes I pursued. I felt like you'd betrayed me, so I learned all I could about what not to eat and how to gain control over you once and for all. I didn't recognize that you were trying to keep me safe by holding on to that weight. You wanted to protect me from starvation. And I hadn't yet grasped the truth of Paul's words—that God loves me with a love that neither the powers of hell nor 50 years of my chronic distrust in his ability to provide for me can ever diminish.
Thank you, body. Forgive me for not having thanked you before this—for not having trusted you enough to tell you how grateful I am for how you've carried me through those famine years. For far too long, you've worn the fat of my sorrows, my yearnings for meaningful connection, for eternal love. You've endured and you've never given up on me. You amaze me. Despite the weight you carry, your heart and lungs, feet and bones still work as they should. You hold me upright, help me to walk, stretch, dance and lift my hands up in praise. You've kept me going and I don't take that for granted.
Coach Stephanie, one of my boot camp coaches, reminded me last week that there is nothing I can't have tomorrow so there is no reason to try to have it all today. How powerful to know that you and I can rest. We are God's masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).
Welcome to the new years of abundance.
Renee is a regular contributor to Today's Christian Woman and the communications director for Canadian Baptist Women of Ontario and Quebec. She blogs on change at reneejames.org.