Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food - Step 9
If the law of God can be summarized in a positive command, then we must end this study talking about how to “run to” God rather than merely how to “run from” sin. Life is not about what we avoid, but what pursue. How we run to God’s design for our life finds a unique expression in each person’s life. For this reason, you will do most of the writing in this chapter. It is your life that is being stewarded for God’s glory. The goal is that you would find things that you could give yourself to more passionately than you once gave yourself to your food rules. But not just temporal, slightly healthier things that would quickly become the next edition of ruling desires; and not things that you give yourself to in private so that they foster selfishness and excess. Rather, eternally significant things that you give yourself to in a community of faith to maintain endurance, temper desire excess, and become an example to others.As you read through and answer these nine questions, remember God’s patience and timing. There will be some aspects of God’s design that you can engage in immediately. But there will also be ways you want to serve God that will require you to mature more or be equipped before you are prepared to fulfill them. The main thing is to begin to have a vision for life that involves being God’s servant and actively engaging that vision where you are currently equipped.
Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food - Step 8
Are you enjoying where you are? Even if you are not “there yet,” can you identify aspects of this part of your journey that make it significantly better than where you’ve been? Unless you can answer “yes” to this question and take delight in that answer, perseverance will be grueling.Striving without delighting is exhausting.One of the keys to persevering, especially with a struggle as recurrent as food-related struggles (with which we have daily interaction) is the ability to enjoy an imperfect, in-process life. God does not just delight in you at the culmination of your sanctification. God delights in you right now. He invites you to agree with him; where he has you in this process is good. This provides the emotional stability and security to engage an unhealthy relationship with food.With that as our starting point, let’s ask the question, “What does it look like to continue to follow God from here?” Chances are that you’ve put so much energy into getting “here” that it is not entirely clear how to prepare yourself for life after an intensive focus on change. What do you do when your life is not focused on changing your relationship with food? That is the topic of this chapter and the next.
Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food - Step 7
As you reach this chapter the momentum of change has probably already fluctuated several times. Getting started was hard. It felt like an uphill battle. Old patterns of life didn’t want to let go of you and you didn’t want to admit they had a hold on you. Changing your eating patterns can feel like betraying a friend; breakups are never easy even when they’re good and needed.But honesty with self, others, and God has a great way of building momentum. You began to let go of the weights of sin that clung to you so you could run free (Heb. 12:1). This second phase is almost always exciting. When there are so many ways that your relationship with food can be healthier, it can bring a great sense of hope and progress.In the third phase, the one we’re starting now, life restructuring may begin to feel more like work again. “Implementation” is not an exciting word or process. Lasting change happens in incremental units and mundane moments. Change begins to impact moments that feel “less relevant” to your battle with food. The relief you’ve gained tempts you think you can risk a few of your previous bad habits. In this chapter you will evaluate the effectiveness and needed modifications to your life restructuring plan made in chapter six. This step will require the passage of time. Implementing (chapter seven) takes longer than creating a plan (chapter six). For this reason, if you are in a group program, it is recommended that you give at least two months to this step. You will need to see how your plan responds to the changes of settings, relationships, and emotions that happen over months rather than days.As this time passes, there are two areas of assessment that you will be performing from this chapter. First, you will be learning how to measure lasting progress. What is the difference between “I’m having a good day” and “My life is beginning to conform to God’s design”? Second, you will be looking at key areas of your life to make sure that you have not overlooked something that was not immediately relevant during the emotional crisis that precipitated your seeking help.But before we engage those subjects, we will spend a couple of sections discussing the topic of relapse. What is a relapse? How do I know if I’ve relapsed? If a relapse doesn’t “just happen” what contributes to a relapse? What do I do if I realize I’ve relapsed?
Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food - Step 6
This is probably the chapter you were looking for when you started this study. Thank you for your patience and perseverance in getting to this point. The foundation you’ve laid will help to ensure that your current efforts towards establishing a healthy relationship with food do not meet the same fate as previous well-intended efforts.You’ve probably known that in order to be a better steward of your body you needed more than food facts and an exercise plan. You needed to understand how you were misusing food for purposes food could never fulfill. You also needed to allow God and others to play the vital role in change that God designed them to do.Now you’ve done those things. That means that practical advisements on meal plans, approaches to exercise, and other life management changes have the opportunity to become healthy lifestyles. No longer are these plans your “savior.” No longer are you merely mustering will power. No longer are you striving to make yourself acceptable to God and others through your appearance. You are now merely seeking to be a good steward of the body God gave you in the context of loving-supportive friendship with fellow believers. We will look at what this good stewardship means in three sections:Accepting Your BodyPreparing for a Return to Healthy EatingBody and Food Stewardship Practices
Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food - Step 5
You will only be as free as you are honest. Privacy kills change and fuels sin. Transparency kills sin and fuels change. Chances are this step may scare you as much as any step you have taken since the first one. But remember it is not nearly as scary to move forward as it is dangerous to go backward. Don’t allow fear to make you forgetful.When you are tempted to think, “This is not worth it. Too much is being asked of me. Why do I need to confess my struggle to others?” remind yourself of these things. Our tendency has been to face difficult situations with indulging in food or punishing ourselves with restriction. That can no longer be our life pattern. Now we will face hardship by being honest with others. Confession serves two functions:Acknowledging how we’ve harmed relationships and making amendsInviting people to become a more informed part of our support networkConfession is what invites other people into our lives and points out to them where they can help. Confession is how we acknowledge our weakness and admit that we need their help; we won’t lie, dismiss, or lash out. Confession is what ensures others that we have the humility and realistic expectations necessary to be safe to receive help. Confession is the door to community; the door through which we must enter if we do not want to be alone in the dark with our disordered eating.Simply put; we confess to others because it is good for our pursuit of righteousness as much as because we’ve sinned. Often, with confession, we are like the child who is offended by their parents telling them to eat the vegetables so they can be “big and strong.” We perceive the remedy as an insult highlighting that we are “small and weak.” It makes sense, but as long as we think that way, we’re trapped.
Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food - Step 4
Should we really say, “God I am sorry my food portions were not ideal (either too large or too small)?” After all, haven’t we established that God does not have an ideal body type? Doesn’t the idea of repenting for a bad relationship with food wreak of legalism? Aren’t we getting dangerously close to holding ourselves to the standard of some fictitious “heavenly meal plan”?These questions push us to ask, “For what are you repenting?” As we will see, the most important part of repentance is never the behavior that made repentance necessary. When we focus on behavior we will inevitably make some kooky legal code that is supposed to please God. We, then, either become a slave to the code or become repulsed by the code; either way, our focus fixates on the code more than God. We repent for the way our sin replaces or misrepresents God. When we sin, we either believe we have found something more satisfying than God (replacement) or we believe God has become unreasonable / out-dated (misrepresentation). So while repentance does involve saying, “I did wrong,” the real action of repentance is in gaining an accurate view of who God is and placing God back in the center of our lives.
Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food - Step 3
If only we could say that we eat because we’re hungry, and we stop when our hunger is satiated. But does anyone really eat that way? We eat for comfort. We abstain because of fear. We eat to socialize. We abstain to be liked. We eat to be entertained. We abstain to punish ourselves. With the briefest of reflections, we quickly realize we have a very complex and elaborate relationship with food. This complex relationship with food starts very young; actually, from infancy. Food is used to get a child to stop crying. Food is used as a reward (extra dessert) and a punishment (no dessert). When you ate all the food on your plate, you were a “big boy” or “big girl,” but you couldn’t get up from the table until you ate at least five more bites of your vegetables.Food has always been more than fuel. We learn to use food for many reasons long before we had the ability to reason. We see in this statement the two realities we will explore in this step: (1) our disordered eating has a history and (2) our disordered eating has motives. Both perspectives are useful in our efforts to gain a healthy relationship with food. We do what we do to get what we want. That is true of all human behavior. Lasting change requires changes in our motives. We need a healthy “why” we eat if we’re going to get to a healthy relationship with “what” we eat.But we’ve also been doing what we’re doing for a long time. Habit is the momentum of the soul. Habit easily fools us into believing that self-sabotage can be comforting. We keep doing what we’re doing because change is hard. Unless we carefully examine and expose our unhealthy eating habits we will blindly repeat them because “they haven’t killed us… yet.”These are the two subjects we’ll examine in this step: history and motive.