Starting with a verse helps, but there is no other graceful way to start this. It's a common story: I've been trying to lose weight for years, but it's gotten especially hard since I turned forty. A couple years ago I tried Weight Watchers, it worked for a couple months but then I got a bad attitude. I kept hearing the same old stuff at the meetings. They kept talking about what to eat. Well, I know what I should be eating; I know all about nutrition and healthy foods and lifestyle. But no one was talking about will power. Where do you get the will power to eat right or to exercise? I used to have it, if I concentrated really hard, if I kept my focus.
These days I can't keep my focus for more than a couple hours, before I get distracted, or stressed, or hormonal, or tired, or emotional...
I've been praying about it. Why, God, is my will power in this area gone? And why is it now starting to affect my will power in other areas, too?
At some point this spring I felt God give me a direction. He told me, "find some others who are struggling like this too."
So I did a little fishing around with my friends at church - and came up empty. I connect with my other Christian friends and acquaintances on various struggles with marriage, raising children, attitudes, juggling everything that needs to get done... but when I mentioned my compulsive eating problems, there wasn't a connection. In fact, my church has a significantly high proportion of thin women!
But God kept prompting me so I looked online and found an organization called Overeaters Anonymous. There was no local group in my town, but there was a group in Cheyenne, 45 minutes away, that met weekly. Even with gas as expensive as it is these days, a weekly drive to Cheyenne would still be cheaper than starting Weight Watchers again, which hadn't worked for me anyway... so why not try a different type of support group?
So, I tried it. And I've finally found some other ladies (and one of them is a follower of Jesus AND a writer, too!!!) that have the same problem I do. I could totally relate to what they shared, and I could finally share my own struggles without feeling shame. What a relief. How glorious it is to find understanding and acceptance!!!!
I read some of the O.A. literature, and it pinpointed my compulsive eating exactly. "Our true insanity could be seen in the fact that we kept right on trying to find comfort in excess food, long after it began to cause us misery." And it also leads to other areas of losing control. For instance, I got chills of recognition when I read this: "More self-examination revealed many areas in which our lives were out of balance. We had to admit that we had not acted sanely when we responded to our children's needs for attention by yelling at them, or when we were jealously possessive of our mates" [or their time/other pursuits in my case].
O.A. uses the same Twelve Steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. I was surprised at how the Twelve Steps are a spiritual method of recovery, and remarkably Biblical in their concepts (confession, forgiveness, repentance):
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over food, and our lives had become unmanageable.
Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Though that last part, God "as we understand Him" basically allows people to come up with any definition of God or a higher power that they want. This is the only part of O.A. that troubles me; it would be wonderful to have a support group that was based completely and forthrightly upon the Bible.
The Twelve Steps don't just address the area of addiction, but require you to take a very deep moral inventory in all areas of life, admitting the same powerlessness over our other character defects as with food, surrendering these to God and asking Him to remove these as well. In my case, so far I've identified my insecurity (fear of not being accepted) as a huge problem that affects all areas of my life.
So I went to my first meeting in mid-August and now it's the end of September and I've been to 6 meetings now. It would be awesome to say I've lost weight, but I haven't (I lost 3 pounds, then gained it back). But for the first time in... well, years, I have finally have hope again in this particular area. I have new friends with a level of understanding that makes me thrilled and humbled at the same time. And I can say that there has been less binging and overeating; I'm making huge steps in identifying emotional triggers for eating as well as other problem areas, such as right after church, "Pizza Night", and whenever I travel or eat out.
At one meeting I said, "how do I survive Pizza Night? My kids love Pizza Night; I can't turn them down, but I just don't have will-power when it comes to pizza."
One of the ladies, C., said, "Make a plan. Determine to eat one slice of pizza, and tell yourself that the rest of the pizza is for your family."
I groaned. I maybe even rolled my eyes. "Sure, fine, but where do I get the will power to do that?"
Then she said something that opened my eyes. "You don't have will power. None of us do. That's part of this disease of overeating."
She continued. "You admit to God that you don't have will power. That you know His will is for you to eat a healthy amount and no more, and you ask for the strength to do His will. Not your own."
This is like living out 2 Corinthians 12:9. By admitting I am weak and powerless, then Christ's power rests on me. This is such a mystery; and yet it works! I admit I am powerless over pizza; and suddenly I can walk away from it after one slice.
From the O.A. Promises: "We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves."
From the O.A. Twelve Step book:
As we become aware of what our eating guidelines should be, we ask for the willingness and the ability to live within them each day. We ask and we receive, first the willingness, and then the ability. We can count on this without fail.What's different here? I've been praying to God FOR YEARS to be saved from this weakness I have for overeating. Take away my desire for food, please! Then I tried a different approach with my theme for this year, "Seek Him" - instead of just asking for Him to take away the cravings, I've been asking, seeking for Him to make Himself so primary in my life that that He replaces the cravings.
I think that was a big leap in my understanding; and then O.A. provided another link in figuring this out, the need to ask first for willingness to abstain from overeating. Not just wondering where my will power went but realizing I HAVE NO WILL POWER. But He does. Replacing my will with His.
That's exactly what happened to me. In the beginning of September, I went 14 days without overeating, God doing for me what I could not do myself - every day I woke up in amazement.
Then I slipped back into old habits. I got busy; God lost priority. I also got frustrated because after having been "good" for 14 days I had only lost 3 pounds (back in my 20's that would easily have been 6 or more pounds. But I'm not in my twenties anymore; 3 pounds in 14 days is actually right on track). I have to stop equating weight loss with victory: just the fact that I hadn't binged in 14 days was a sweet victory in itself.
But mostly I just letting old habits sneak back up on me. I stopped seeking Him; I skipped reading the Word in the morning; I stopped praying. When I was stressed, tired, angry or hurt, or even just upset with myself for not accomplishing things I wanted to get done (like writing), I turned to food again for instant comfort. I realized what I was doing. I realized something even scarier, that once I had forfeited that sweet freedom of God for my own will, it was going to be even harder to give up my will again and go back to living in God's will.
Hard, but never impossible. Nothing is impossible with God. I gladly surrender my will to Him, again.
"The more total our surrender, the more fully realized our freedom from food obsession."
Update 12/10/12: I have lost 10 pounds! Still going to Overeaters Anon. meetings regularly, also using Sparkpeople.com to track what I'm eating and how much I'm exercising and to journal, helps to identify what situations cause temptation.