As a child low fat diets were all the craze. My mother would put me on low fat diets featuring slim fast shakes and meal replacement bars. I now know that was the opposite of what my nutritionally depleted, unbalanced hormonal prepubescent body needed. I now know that those slim fast shakes contained so many harmful ingredients, including soy products that were damaging to my estrogen levels. It fought against me, not for me. However, as this was before the internet age there was little knowledge, so we were stuck with Richard Simmons and low fat cottage cheese.
My challenge with weight apparently began in kindergarten. My mother explained to me one day that I was sent home with chickenpox. It took me about 10 days days to recover and in that time I ballooned two clothes sizes. She explained she couldn’t keep weight off of me after that. Who knows what that was about? Maybe I’m an unrealized X-men with the super power of exponentially gaining weight in a short amount of time? I’ve yet to find the purpose of this power but I’m sure it will serve me in the zombie apocalypse.
Because of this superpower, I became aware of being overweight at a very young age.
I played sports all through middle school even though (on average) I was 40 pounds heavier than my peers. I ate what my parents fed me. Being low income it was often high starch boxed foods with meat added. Very limited and small portions of vegetables and carbs were prevalent because they were cheap. As I explained in my previous blog my father and I were obese and my mother and brother were not.
It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I saw any dramatic weight loss. I decided to go out for three sports that year (two of which I’d never played before) and dropped 40 pounds from the conditioning. It was grueling, embarrassing at times, as kids would mock me at other schools, but I kept at it. Then in college I dropped another 40 pounds through conditioning and from observing what my healthy roommate ate.
I was able to keep the 80 pounds off for about 3 to 4 years. After we lost my dad it started to come back on. What I did before didn’t work as well (I was later diagnosed with PCOS) and I faced getting off the weight again in my early 30’s. A couple years after marrying my husband I found myself weighing over 300 pounds.
That day I reached 305 and stared at the scale in complete shock, I knew if I continued I would suffer greatly. If I wanted to live with any quality of life I was going to need to educated myself and try things in a different way. So I prayed.
At that time, I was introduced to the Schwarzbein Program created by Dr. Diana Schwarzbein. She is an endocrinologist who specializes in nutrition and saw success getting her Type 2 Diabetes patients off of their meds simply through an eating program she developed. Although I didn’t have diabetes, it did run in my family so I decided to adopt the program.
The program was not a fast track diet, it was all about balancing your insulin levels by eating low glycemic foods. Proteins, Carbs, and Fats were a balanced part of your calorie intake at each meal. Some of you may know this as controlling your macronutrient intake while maintaining a caloric deficit (that’s as smart as I will sound in this blog. Just FYI).
This way of eating taught me to eat balanced macros (balanced protein, carbs, with slightly less fat) 3-5 times a day. It was all about eliminating the spikes in blood sugar that can cause fatigue and weight gain. Basically, it encouraged eating REAL food that was not processed, all the while cutting refined sugars, gluten, and lowering my intake of dairy. I tried to stay away from food that came in a package or box. And a huge emphasis was placed on using NO low fat foods because low fat foods usually contain a high amount of sugar. There are other aspects, but those are the ones that stood out to me.
Another thing they emphasized was that you would only lose 1-2 pounds a week. Exercise should be 30 min, 4 to 5 times a week low aerobic impact. This meant a combo of walking, swimming, weight training, yoga, etc. It was about healing your adrenal glands and eating balanced foods with good fats that healed your body. I learned to eat an appropriate portion and stop right before I was full. Not like I always accomplished that but I understood the goal. Also, they explained what true hunger signs were and to identify when I was just eating because of an emotional deficit.
After a few months I dropped 25 pounds and kept it off for a few years. It was the beginning of understanding what role food truly could play in my life. The Lord began to change my mind drastically towards food and healthy eating. Before, food was a dread. I often felt so defeated because of my weight gain that I avoided learning about foods. It became a calculated regimen in which I told myself I was not meant to enjoy. I needed to punish myself through self-denial and this is how I would obtain a perfect body. As ridiculous as that sounds I think that many people would agree. We’ve been fed the mantra that in order to succeed in health you must feel copious amounts of pain and deny thyself. A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips! Right? No, you need to eat foods that fill and satisfy you in a healthy way. Self-denial in order to obtain anything produces a religious life apart from the one who created you.
After keeping off 25 pounds for a few years I then prepared for our move to the Charlotte area. I felt led to try a juice cleanse. In my mind I thought it was a fast in order to prepare for the move, and even though it was, it became the catalyst to so much more. I successfully completed a nine day juice cleanse twice before moving. And to boil it all down, God rocked my relationship with food. I not only lost weight on the fast but all of my taste buds were reset. Food tasted amazing after that! My horizons broadened as I searched out flavors and healthy foods that I’d never tried. The last time I went on a cleanse was for 13 days and I knew the Lord had broken something in my life. I understood the power of His participation in my health and that His goal was that I had joy in eating. Because of this, I fell in LOVE with food.
Fall in love with food? Isn’t loving food the issue? I began to understand that God truly wanted me to enjoy food, not feel a continual shame from it. I discovered that in order to obtain my weight loss goals I needed to find joy in what I was eating and to have a healthy and creative perspective about foods that I had previously labeled “holy” or “demonized”.
As I studied various trends concerning healthy eating habits (so much easier to do with google but also can be so overwhelming since it’s constantly changing – everyone’s an expert ) I’d developed a mentality that if I ate something on the “demonized” list I felt like I’d failed morally. Here’s where the Lord had to change my perspective. I explained much of this food morality in my last blog. Click here to read.
As I pointed out in the last blog scripture says that it’s not what goes into a man that defiles him but what comes out. This means that if the fruit of the Spirit is not flowing out of your heart, then you can risk going off into unfruitful, immoral living. This results in a life that is dull, negative, and filled with trying to fill legitimate needs in illegitimate ways apart from God. Your relationship with Jesus and how much He can guide you is crucial to experiencing joy. Is He a part of the eating process? Well if you live in a legalistic mindset then when you eat “holy” foods you believe you’re pleasing Him. However, when there is a summer BBQ and you feast on a piece of “demonized” Costco cake, you’ll measure it as immoral and withdrawal from God. I’m oversimplifying but you get the point.
Jesus loves Costco cake. Jesus loves to feast. He’s preparing a pretty spectacular one right now!
Jesus wants us to enjoy our lives and understand how food reacts with our bodies. He desires for us to reach our goals of course, however, I find that when I am slipping back into shameful eating patterns (in other words, when I start to withdraw from talking to God about my food choices because I think I’m not measuring up) I find the best way back is to refocus with Him on the joy of eating. He’s not disappointed. He wants to encourage me about what I can have instead of what I think I will be missing. It’s about refocusing on the solution and not what we think is being taken away from us.
If I need to take a few days and cut sugar I do that because I am not an addict to sugar. I am not a person who does not walk with the Holy Spirit with self-control. This isn’t a prideful statement – it’s my identity in Him. Do I need to go on Pinterest and create a fun paleo eating board to be re-inspired? Do I need to research some healthy keto desserts to fill that need to be fun and creative?
I don’t beat myself up for not reaching my goals fast enough anymore. I invite Him to bring joy back into my eating because life happens and food can get dull and monotonous. When this happens I’m reaching for the foods that are easier to eat but not always the healthiest.
I weigh 224 pounds. I’ve lost 81 pounds from my heaviest point. Yep, drop the mic, I just publically posted my current weight for all to see. Who gives a flying monkey.
Let’s all post in the comments how much we weigh and what we ate for lunch. Maybe we could all just relax and share what works and what doesn’t without all the shame, judgment, and unrealistic expectations. Often, fat people don’t need advice unless they ask for it. My eyes were open the most by simply being around healthy people and asking questions along the way. There is no one method of eating healthy. If there were then there would not be a billion dollar diet industry. What works today may be debunked tomorrow. What works for you may not work for me. Live your life with the support of others who call out the greatness in you. Live together openly and other people’s successes will become yours if you are willing to humble yourself and try something different.
I enjoy the adventure of losing weight and eating healthy now. I have a healthier body image because I’ve allowed God (and continue to allow Him) into those dark places of pain, rejection, lack of knowledge, etc.
If your heart resonates with anything of this blog my greatest advice would be to go on an adventure with God! Religion wants to tell you that its all about suffering and self denial, when the Creator of the universe says, “nope…let me show you the wonders of how you are made.”
- Take risks.
- Be radically honest with yourself and others.
- Go on a food adventure.
- Try the weird looking kombucha.
- Track your eating on an app like MyFitnessPal or use a Fitbit to be present with what you’re eating/moving.
- Drink more water.
- Go to the health food store.
- Read success stories from people who eat real food.
- Lighten up.
- Go outside, even if people have made fun of you in the past.
- Receive the Lord’s love you so you can love yourself.
- Be around others who enjoy you even at your grumpiest or most vulnerable.
- Be intolerant to your own hopelessness.
- Get back up and try again.
- Put on a bathing suit and shake what the good Lord gave you! Or better yet…go skinny dip in the dark with some friends…
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect, and honesty.