I hate I-20. We don’t use it any more to drive the twenty miles to Augusta, Georgia, from our home in Appling.
Construction is everywhere coming and going. Roadblocks move traffic to one lane. Traffic is backed up ten miles. What took 20-30 minutes to drive to Augusta now takes an hour. The secondary roads aren’t much better because locals know the problems on I-20 and are trying to find an alternate route like we do.
It occurred to me the other day when I was unhappily stuck in traffic that roadblocks apply to weight loss too. They block our progress, keep us from reaching our destination on time, and make us frustrated and impatient.
It’s like Pilgrim in the well known story of Pilgrim’s Progress. There were many obstacles keeping him from reaching the Celestial City and an array of side paths that threatened to detour him from his goal.
In many ways, our weight loss journey is like Pilgrim’s journey with many tempting side paths and obstacles along the way. But with God’s help, we can reach our target weight and maintain it.
It is an emotional and spiritual journey. In Philippians 1:6, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. When our emotions run out of gas, and we can’t go any farther, God can supply us with gas to continue on our way!
Our commitment to weight loss is, in essence, a sacred commitment. It is a promise to God as well as to ourselves to have a healthy body that honors the Lord. He wants that for us perhaps more than we want it for ourselves. He will bring conviction when we veer from the path and deliver consequences of guilt and even shame as He, in love, nudges us to get back on the healthy eating road.
We know we need to lose weight. We want to lose weight. We have good intentions to lose weight. But, we’ve no sooner merged off the entrance ramp to enter the highway of healthy eating when we hit the gridlock and can’t even see where it ends. Grrr!
Have you ever had that happen? Sure you have. I have. We all have had that happen. Stuck in a traffic jam and not able to lose weight no matter our desire or good intentions. Road blocks coming and going. Grrr!
It’s discouraging and depressing. We want to get off at the nearest exit and forget this mess. What’s the use? I’m not going anywhere with this weight loss. Why bother? I’ll just get off, take a side road, and go back to eating whatever I want. It’s less stressful than fighting this traffic.
When we are stressed and depressed, we eat! It’s funny how traffic tie-ups make us hungry. When I get to the backed-up Grovetown exit, I think, “I’ll pull into Steak ‘n Shake and grab a burger, fries, and one of those heavenly, rich, thick chocolate shakes.” I will feel better just thinking about it!
If I give into this craving, my weight loss commitment flies out the drive-through window.
But thank God, I know that if I give in, I’ll be angry with myself, feel lethargic the rest of the afternoon, and be full, not only from the burger, fries, and shake but also full of guilt. If I let the temptation pass, I will be glad and empowered as I look at it in my rear view mirror instead of seeing it on my belly in the mirror tomorrow.
When I drive in a city’s heavy interstate traffic, my emotions drain out like water from a busted dam. My full attention is focused on getting through the start and go jam and watching for those crazy, rude, and reckless drivers who give no thought that their recklessness could kill me. Driving on interstates in heavy traffic gives me a headache and exhausts me. I don’t know how people manage to stay sane who have to drive to work during rush hour five days a week!
What happens when we are emotionally drained whether it’s fighting traffic or fighting the hassles of living? We have no energy left to keep our weight loss commitment!
We get home whipped. Then take our second wind to do all of our home responsibilities. At last, when the work is done, we collapse in the big chair to watch TV. But, our motor hasn’t completely shut down. We are fidgety and head for the pantry to get something to eat. Will it be chips or how about a Little Debbie or two? Maybe a big bowl of ice cream? Night eating! How many of us do it because we are emotionally exhausted and look to food to refuel our emotions?
Now, a bedtime healthy snack of 100-150 calories is OK and even recommended by nutrition experts like Dr. Don Colbert. They fuel the metabolism which burns calories as we sleep. However, night junk food is not the same as a healthy bedtime snack. For me, a bedtime snack might consist of yogurt and half banana. That’s OK. Before my commitment to lose weight, I junked it up at night! Yuk!
OK, how about this road block? Nothing goes right in your morning. You know you have to leave for work at 6:30 because of the road construction. Before the construction, you could leave at 7:00 and have a little time to spare to make it before 8:00. But this morning, you look at the clock, and it’s already 6:45! Yikes! You fly out the door. No time for breakfast even though you’re hungry. At work, some kind soul has put two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts by the coffee pot. They include several of your favorites like chocolate covered creme-filled ones at 360 calories. Who can eat just one? You enjoy two of them. 720 calories just like that! Wow! A major roadblock to your healthy eating plans for the day gone in ten minutes!
Roadblock after roadblock. What’s the use? You give up. Can’t win. You forget the whole losing weight thing and trying to eat healthily. Big deal, right? Then it’s fast food for lunch at McDonalds, and take out and take home for supper for you and the family because you haven’t the energy to spend fifteen or twenty minutes to prepare a healthy supper. The ounces turn into pound after pound. You look into the mirror and are disgusted with yourself. Guilt and shame crawl over you, but there’s seemingly nothing you do about it. The roadblocks are numerous, and it’s aggravating to even try.
Your compulsive and addictive relationship with food has the power over you. It will not go away. You’re our of control and afraid. You cannot protect yourself. You are powerless.
Consider this roadblock too. At work, you have a meeting scheduled for ten o’clock. Oh, how you dread it. Your boss is a negative, harsh, and demanding man. He never says anything encouraging and always finds fault with your performance. Yet, you know you are doing excellent work. Your co-workers have said so too.
Because you dread the meeting, you grab a plastic plate and fill it up with the junk provided by his well-meaning secretary. Tostitos, dip, Goldfish, cookies, Coca-Colas, and everything you don’t need. As your boss hammers away, you eat to get through it. Eating gives you some sort of strange comfort, numbs the pain, and calms your nerves like watching the sunrise at the beach with the gentle waves making their music breaking on the sand. Ahh!
Eating. It’s the one area of my life where I have complete control. I’m not really that fat! Maybe a little overweight but not fat.
Yea, you always feel a tinge of guilt after eating more than you know you should. You don’t feel sexy any more. Your sex life is in the tank. Your energy has disappeared. You can’t wait to hit the sack to sleep it off. You’ll feel better in the morning.
You can’t get a handle on what’s bothering you. Feelings of guilt and shame follow you around like your shadow. The pain won’t go away. So, you continue to overeat to kill the pain. You have no clue as to why or what’s going on with you. Like an alcoholic who awakens in the morning to have another drink, you awaken to eat more food.
God knows when someone rudely comments, “You look like you’ve gained a little weight.” You’ve tried to disguise your heaviness with “fat” clothes that fit loosely and drape over your body like a tent. You’ve tried to hide the poundage that has slowly crept upon you over time, but the mask doesn’t cover it. That nasty comment makes you feel either ashamed or angry.
Hiding our fatness is denial which is another emotional roadblock to losing weight and eating healthily.
Emotional eating is also gender related. In general, psychologists say more emotional eaters are women other than men. Women are at greater risk for anxiety and depression. Men emotionally compensate their stress and tension with high risk behavior by having an affair or taking unnecessary risks like speeding down the interstate, driving recklessly, gambling with money they can’t afford to lose, or starting fights.
Back to the food issue that more women have than men. Why do more women eat emotionally than me? After all, men are from Mars; women are from Venus. There is a difference in the way God put us together.
Perhaps it goes back to the very beginning with Eve’s emotional eating. The forbidden fruit looked good. It offered a solution to her unfounded feelings of incompleteness. It looked like it would meet a legitimate need to make her wise. So, she gave into the temptation, and you know the rest of the story.
What about Adam? He ate the forbidden fruit offered to him by Eve. His sentence was painful toil to work for food. Maybe that’s why men enter into risky task-oriented behavior instead of eating emotionally. Who knows? I’m just making a guess and don’t mean to be sexist.
But, psychologists have found in general that more women have emotional eating issues than men, and men are more prone to deal with their emotional issues through risky behavior. (http://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/gender-differences-in-emotional-health.aspx)
Evidently, simply being a woman can be a roadblock to losing weight because they tend to be emotional eaters more than men.
Weight gain, weight loss and healthy eating is a journey that certainly involves the emotions. God created us to feel happy and sad, mad and glad, and depressed and joyful. Emotions tell us we are alive. They also tell us something is wrong when our heart pains us. It is our emotions that tell us something needs to be done when we look in the mirror and see our fat.
We can either try and anesthetize our pain with the drug of food or do something constructive to lose weight by eating smaller portions of healthy food and getting active with some sort of exercise.
Our mind makes the commitment to lose weight. Emotions either motivate us to follow through on our commitment or give up and continue on the path of eating unhealthy food.
There is an essential central spiritual component too. We need God’s help to get around the roadblocks. “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 MSG).
When our emotions block the road, God opens the road. When our emotions tell us to quit, God keeps us going. When our emotional strength wanes, God’s strength grows stronger in us. “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT).
“You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord All-Powerful” (Zechariah 4:6 NCV).
By God’s grace and power, the open road to a healthy, trim body beckons us onward. May our travel be safe and and successful. Amen.