Your diet may be trying to tell you something much bigger and much more meaningful than your daily calorie count. Your diet may be trying to uncover something you’ve hidden for a long time. Are you ready to uncover the secret and learn something new about yourself? Brace yourself. It could be a doozie.
Push The Reset Button
As some of you know, I just competed this weekend. Competing requires a lot of training, dieting and discipline. It can consume your life if you let it, and you can be a winner on the outside but a complete failure on the inside if you aren’t careful. That is why every time I compete, I like to immediately reflect on what I’ve learned and how I can improve – starting on the inside.
I like to get alone with God, re-examine myself, look inside (after spending WAY to much time looking on the outside) and kinda push the “reset” button. I do this with my Bible and an open heart, expecting God to speak to me – and He always does.
Today, I’m going to talk about dieting from a whole new angle. If you think the “diet” is a bad 4-letter word, this is for you. If you struggle with your diet, this is for you. If you hate rules, this is for you. Whether you eat healthy or unhealthy, this is for you. This is a totally different look at dieting and I hope it enlightens you, encourages you and motivates you.
Prepare To Fight
Galatians 5 talks about works of the flesh (our body). What is a work of the flesh? In simple terms, it’s basically anything that your body wants this isn’t good for you. The author, Paul, lists off a bunch of examples you’d expect like adultery and murder (which most of us can blow off as no big deal because it’s not an issue for us), but he also includes some things we all struggle with. For example, outbursts of wrath (Hello! Can anyone relate?), selfish ambition (but no one else is looking out for me), jealousy (she doesn’t deserve it and I do), hatred (but they hurt me) and contentions (ugh). And, he ends it with “and the like”. This means that the list is basically endless.
While there are so many things our flesh craves that can ultimately harm us, I believe one of the best tangible examples is our craving for food. We know it can cause us harm if we eat too much or eat the wrong things, but we do it anyway. It’s so powerful and so destructive.
There is no other time that I’m more aware of my flesh’s power than when I’m dieting. When I’m dieting, peanut butter is suddenly as addictive as a drug. Like crack cocaine, it sucks me in and I’d practically do anything for it. My body knows when I’m low on calories and so it craves high-calorie, high-fat foods to replace the calories I’ve been working so hard to erase. It is the perfect example of my body going against me and opposing my plan.
In reality, our flesh is not for us. It’s against us. Our flesh doesn’t care if we are married, if we have goals or if what it wants will harm us in the long run. It just wants what it want. However, we do not have to be enslaved to it. A matter of fact, we can use it to learn, grow and improve.
As we look at dieting in a new light, I want to address the hidden powerful benefits of being on a diet, outside of nutrition or weight loss.
Dieting: Why All The Rules?
It doesn’t take long to realize we need rules in life. Rules were created to keep people safe. They aren’t invented to be mean or to keep us from having fun. They are for our own good.
I remember absolutely dying laughing when Steve posted this video about the “NO DIVING” warning that came with the kiddie pool we bought for the dogs. It was ridiculous to think of diving into 10 inches of water. But, since it had a warning sticker, this meant somebody probably attempted to do it. Someone needs that warning.
The Big Reveal
The truth is, they don’t have issues with the diet, they have issues the diet exposes.
Dieting is simply eating with rules. You are just given guidelines to eat by that will keep you safe and healthy. Sadly, many people hate the rules. Therefore, they hate the diet and eventually reject the plan. The truth is, they don’t have issues with the diet, they have issues the diet exposes.We all do. Diets reveal our problems.
For example, my father-in-law has no issues with speeding so he doesn’t mind speed limits. However, speed limits were made for people like me. If the speed limit is 70, I want to go 80. The speed limit exposes my heavy foot and impatience. I want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible so I’m the first person to complain about slow speed limits. The law isn’t the problem. My impatience and the fact I run late all the time is the problem. That is why I am always speeding. I’m always running late. That’s the real issue, not the speed limit. It’s me.
If there was no speed limit, who knows how fast I’d go. So this law is not just protecting me, it is there to protect the people I could hurt while I’m rushing to work at 100 miles an hour all because I’m running late.
The Real Purpose
Let’s go back to the very beginning and look at why rules were made in the first place. I’m talking the 10 commandments, which was the first set of “rules” created to live by. The law was written to reveal our sin. God didn’t carve them in stone, expecting us to obey every single one. There is no way humanly possible to obey them all. We fail on every level – from not obeying our parents and not loving one another to not coveting the new iPhone 7 that I heard is coming out this fall. LOL.
God gave us the law, to reveal our issues. He wanted to show us HIS ideal, so we could see where we fall short and know what we need to work on. It is a tool for us to use to see ourselves as He sees us, so we recognize our weaknesses and need for God and His grace. Without rules, we would not realize what we need to work on. In many ways, the same goes with diet rules.
Uncovering The Truth
Like the law, we can’t look at our diet and lie about obeying it. Rules are black and white. There is no grey. We answer it with a “yes” or “no” only. This exposes our weaknesses more clearly. As we log our food, it reveals patterns. It reveals the foods we aren’t willing to give up. It can reveal laziness or a rebellious nature (not wanting to be told what to do). Whatever the case, we can either accept what it reveals and realize those are areas we need to work on, or reject the rules altogether.
Without the rules, we can hide our dietary “sins”, keeping the truth under cover. No rules means no failures (we think). Our mindset can become warped, thinking “if we don’t set standards or guidelines to follow, we cannot fail.” When, not trying at all is the worst kind of failure.
I see similar struggles with new Christians. As they begin to look at their life through God’s eyes for the first time, they realize just how much they need to improve. Many people will even quit and give up because the fight seems too hard. The problem is, they are focusing on the rules, not the reason for the rules. They are focusing on perfection not progress. However, if they learn to appreciate the rules and what it reveals, they can experience freedom in their progress no matter how slow it is.
The same goes with food. Instead of hating our diet, we can be thankful for the rules as it exposes our weak areas. We can embrace each new revelation as an opportunity to improve. We can focus on progress, not perfection.
The Struggle is Real
You are not alone. Check this out. This was the Apostle Paul’s insight on the law, and his own fight he had with his flesh. While his problem might not have been with food, his fight will sound very familiar.
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. Romans 7:14-16
Can you relate? I know I can! When I’m standing in front of the pantry with a jar of peanut butter in one hand and a rice crisp in the other, I am thinking “I shouldn’t be eating this” and yet I open my mouth and insert another peanut butter dipped chip.
The problem isn’t the law. My diet isn’t what is wrong. I am what is wrong. My flesh wants what it wants – even if it completely goes against what I know is best. It’s just evidence of our flesh.
Instead of getting mad about being on a diet, we should get mad at our flesh and refuse to let it rule us.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c]you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18
Conflicted For A Cause
What do you do when you hate conflict? You often settle, and give in to the other person, or you give up and run away. I believe we do that with our diet. After our issues are revealed we are more aware of the conflict going on inside us. We don’t like what we see. Our flesh fights against us so it is easier to just give up or give in than to keep fighting. However, God teaches us here in Galatians that this conflict is purposed so we don’t do whatever we want.
We shouldn’t feel in bondage to the rules, but we should let the rules help us make better decisions. We will fail. That’s inevitable, but we can improve IF we realize the rules are for our own good.
I hate feeling like a failed after going overboard on snacks at night, but that’s only because I decided to live by dietary rules. It’s because I’m trying to live with higher standards. I would be SO much WORSE if I didn’t live by any rules at all. The conflict I find myself in as I face the pantry is a healthy one. It’s the natural battle between my flesh and spirit, right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy.
Later in Galatians, after Paul talks about the works of the flesh, he talks about the fruit (evidence) of the spirit
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience, endurance, self-restraint, fortitude), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
What does dieting require more than anything? Self control and patience. We will know when we are not letting our flesh rule us when our life exhibits more of these traits. We may not think that practicing self-control with food as a Godly characteristic, but it is. We must exercise these traits in all areas of life. We can’t have selective self-control or selective patience. It must overflow in all areas of our life.
In the same way, we can’t we can’t allow the flesh to grow strong in one area and expect it to not grow strong in other areas. Anytime we feed our flesh, it grows stronger. Starve the flesh and it will die. The more we practice discipline and self-control in our diet, the easier it is to practice it in other areas as well. This is why we should not give up and give in.God expects us to be willing to fight the flesh in every single way until the day we die. The day we have no conflict, is the day we are no longer fighting.
Embracing the Rules
I believe the biggest reason people lose weight and then gain it again is they get tired of living by the rules. Who doesn’t?! After tracking food and being on a diet, they can’t wait to free from all the rules. I admit, it’s exhausting at times. When I’m in extreme diet mode, I’m weighing and measuring everything. I’m packing my food, avoiding going out to eat and practicing a lot of self-control. (Note: I said practicing. That means exactly what it says. I haven’t mastered it. I’m practicing it.)
Can you imagine if we just decided we have had it with obeying the law? If we decided we were tired of trying to go the speed limit and stopping at every single red light. We’d create a lot of problems, and likely die. The same goes with dieting. We’d create a mess for ourselves. There WILL be repercussions.
We don’t get the luxury of “taking off” with the law, in our marriage, in our diet or in our walk with the Lord. It doesn’t mean we can’t have a piece of pie or play hooky from church without serious repercussions, but it does mean we still must practice a certain level of self-control. We have one piece of pie, not 3. We can loosen the reigns, but we are still accountable.
What I am saying is there is no “off”. There should always be a set of guidelines to live by. Maybe they don’t have to be as strict as they were when you first started your weight loss journey, but you will still need some guidelines – or you’ll be back to where you started when you had no guidelines at all.
Dieting To Improve
“Dieting is more than a list of dos and don’ts. It is a tool to uncover our weaknesses so we can work on them.”
Whether you are on a diet that counts calories or watches carbs. Whether you are just trying to eat less or avoid eating out, dieting can be very good for us if we realize it is more than a list of dos and don’ts. It is a tool to uncover our weaknesses so we can work on them – and the only way we can fail is to give up.
I pray as you read this that you get encouraged and look at dieting in a whole new way. Just remember, it’s a tool to make you better. It’s not the enemy. Our own flesh is.
As you attempt to follow the rules, focus on progress, not perfection. You can fail your way to success as long as you keep learning rom your mistakes.
Start your diet today with a fresh new mindset, an open heart and a willing attitude.