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A book, a treadmill and prayer

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POSTED February 22, 2014 12:01 a.m.

I love junk food! I’m not talking a casual fondness for a fistful of Doritos or a mouthful of powered donuts. I’m talking full blown, passionate love, for deep fried chicken, cheeseburgers and French fries, supreme pizzas with extra thick crust and a pound of shredded cheese scattered over chunks of sausage and pepperoni. Washed down by a mug of ice cold soda, followed by a jumbo scoop of vanilla ice cream with hot fudge drizzled on top. Do you get the picture? I love junk food! 

This was my dilemma I sighed, as I left my doctors office frustrated over the extra thirty pounds my love for junk food had packed on. I knew I had gained some weight since my last check up, but when my doctor poked a finger at my belly and said “I was getting chunky and could stand to loose a few pounds,” I really got the picture.

Over the years I had tried everything from liquid diets, low carbohydrate plans, to menus filled with fruit and vegetables only. With each new diet came the hope that my will power would last long enough for me to loose a few pounds before my junk food craving kicked in. Unfortunately, with each new diet came the same old failure. 

Wallowing in my own pity that afternoon, I decided to have a serious talk with God. My past failures had caused me to bypass the subject of weight loss with Him, but being poked in the belly was no fun. So it was time to be honest. 

 “I need to lose weight God and I can’t.” I prayed. “I have no will power so I’m pretty sure I will fail. But I do believe in You. And I believe if you help me, then maybe I have a chance.” God heard my request and used a good book, a sturdy treadmill and a ton of prayer to show me the way.

Immediately, I searched my bookshelf hoping to find a helpful resource that would point the way to a healthier lifestyle. One that I could handle. One, I hoped, that didn’t consist of merely eating rice cakes, or “crunchy air” that seemed to be required for dieters.

 What I found was Neva Coyle’s and Marie Chapian’s book Free to Be Thin. I had discovered it a few months prior to my honest talk with God in a used bookstore, wedged between hundreds of other forgotten books. 

 At first glance, the five-dollar paperback seemed to be another quick fix weight loss program, in which I instinctively tossed it in my basket to skim through at later time. 

 Pulling the unexpected treasure off the shelf and blowing the dust of the top of the pages, I cracked it open. To my surprise, the very first sentence, having nothing to do with rice cakes thank God, struck a chord within me and set my healthy lifestyle change in motion. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Isaiah 43:18

I was stunned — Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Without realizing it, I had picked up a faith-based book geared toward teaching readers to live godly lives, not by dieting but by making healthy spiritual, mental and physical choices. 

The first step in making healthy choices was to Forget the former things… Each time I had tried and failed in the past to lose weight, to say no to junk food, to take better care of myself, the failure had been stored in memory. But now God was telling me, to forget about my past failures and focus on my future victories.

I knew future victories in making healthy choices meant having to narrow my focus to literally one meal at a time—this was going to take a lot of prayer. I had been used to eating whatever I wanted and my extra thirty pounds proved it. But the idea of laying aside past failures and working with God one meal at a time, gave me hope.

Through Free to Be Thin, I learned why we are attracted to the wrong foods and how to be patient with ourselves, and how to create an active life style. With each chapter came a simple prayer of encouragement towards a deeper commitment to better health. As my mental and spiritual awareness grew, I was ready for the next step—Exercise.

I made a commitment to take a brisk 30-minute walk every day on my new treadmill. By the end of my first walk, I learned that hearing about the benefits of exercise all these years, didn’t compare to actually experiencing it. It was amazing. Within 30-minutes a bucket of endorphins, “happy chemicals in the brain,” were released and my whole attitude changed. I felt fabulous. 

Yet, just like with my meals, I knew I needed God to help me stay committed to the wonderful benefit of exercise. I knew it would be easy to get busy with life and forget or make excuses as to why I couldn‘t exercise. Once again, I focused my thoughts and prayers to one exercise session at a time. 

With each meal needing prayer and each day of exercise needing prayer, I found myself talking to God more than I ever had before. A few days into my exercise commitment, I put my paperback on a book holder and read while I walked. Not only did the time fly, but I stumbled upon a life-changing truth. 

The authors, Coyle and Chapian, unashamedly confronted our lack of exercising the fruit of self-control. “If you think you have no self control in your life because of overeating.” They said. “Take a look at some areas in your life where you do exercise self control. Do you:

Get out of bed when the alarm clock rings?

Arrive to work on time?

Answer the phone when it rings?

Pay a bill?

Take a Shower?

Make decision about anything?

If you can check yes to any of these, then you’re loaded with self control.”

What! I was loaded with self-control? How could this be? For years I had given into junk food, thinking I had no self-control. Yet, I couldn’t deny the fact that I had answered yes to every one of the questions.

Finally, the light bulb went on. It was clear that I suffered from selective self-control syndrome. I only used self control when I really wanted to. Apparently, I never really wanted to give up junk food, only the weight.

Self-control, is described in Galatians 5:22-23 as one of the many fruits of the Holy Spirit. And every single believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of him or her. Which means whether we exercise self-control or not, we possess the fruit. 

It’s been said, that knowing is half the battle. If we know we possess the tools we need to succeed in making healthy choices, then the key is learning to use those tools. Exercising the spirit of self-control, as with any exercise, takes time to develop. 

Surrounding myself with the right resources and being patient with myself while I developed them, not to mention constant prayer, helped me loose my 30 unwanted pounds and keep it off.

Do I still crave junk food? Sure I do. But meditating on God’s word has instilled in me that I have self-control. And I can exercise it little by little, one day at a time.

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