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December 30th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

My Take: When the fat girl got mad at God

Editor's Note: Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and author of Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire With God, Not Food. Lysa blogs daily at www.lysaterkeurst.com. 

By Lysa TerKeurst, Special to CNN

Three years ago I was stuck in a rut of wishful thinking and excuses with my weight loss. At the beginning of each day I would say I wanted things to be different. I would vow in my heart to make things different. I would even make a plan to stop the snacks, increase the veggies, and say no to the desserts.

But then life would happen. And the excuses were so very plentiful. So, my resolve would melt away like butter on a hot yeast roll.

Of course the next morning I would always get up and weigh myself hoping that somehow magic would have happened over night. Despite my indulgences from the day before, maybe just maybe the numbers would have gone down.

But the scale was not impressed with my wishful thinking. So you know who I’d get mad at?

God.

I’d beg God to help me one minute while scarfing down an order of fries the next. And then I’d be doubly mad He didn’t steer my car away from the drive-thru.

I deemed myself a victim of tragic genetics, overactive taste buds and a stomach that demanded large portions.  What I failed to realize for years is there was a much more significant issue going on with me.

More important than the ever increasing size of my jeans was the deception going on inside my heart. My weight was outside indication of an internal situation. There was a crucial spiritual situation that needed to be addressed.

I was relying on food to be my comfort, my ever present help, my guide, the thing that got me through the valleys and the first thing I wanted to celebrate with in the good times. Honestly, I might as well have taken Psalm 23 and replaced the Lord’s name with various food choices.

My proper little Christian self would have never expressed that out loud. But my body wouldn’t keep secrets. I had an issue. And the ever increasing size of my body demanded the REAL issue be addressed.

I don’t write to point out anyone else’s issue. There are certainly medical situations that can cause weight gain. But my issue was truly a spiritual one. And no diet would have ever been permanently successful until I got to the real root of my problem.

The root of my issue was craving food more than God. I desired and depended on the instant high of physical gratification because I hadn’t learned how to let God satisfy my deepest needs.

God wasn’t causing my weight issues as some sort of cruel consequence for my poor choices.
God was actually the very thing I needed to help overcome my issues.

Dr. Floyd Chilton who teaches at Wake Forest University of medicine wrote an article that said, "Your willpower is in constant battle with your genes and your calorie-excessive environment. Often your best efforts are no match for your genes and environment which is why so many diets fail so miserably... Will power alone is not enough to bring about this change; start by realizing that can not do this alone. If you are a person of faith, use that connection to help you change."

So, I set out to understand what the Bible says about how to consume food without food consuming me. I started in Genesis and read through the Bible with an appetite for truth rather than chocolate, chips and cheeseburgers. This was a spiritual journey that yielded great physical benefits. I lost 25 pounds in 4 months but more importantly, I have kept it off for nearly two years. That’s a first for me!

Now, I sense my weight issue was actually a gift in disguise. I never thought I’d say that. And yes, three years ago I would have rolled my eyes at someone saying that too.

But I don’t say it as a Pollyanna lollipop girl with too much air between her ears and no cellulite on her hiney.
I know this is a tough issue. I’ve walked through the tears and the feelings of failure. Remember, I was the fat girl mad at God about this whole deal. So, hear me out.

Learning to turn to God to fill my soul instead of food to overstuff my emptiness, has changed more than just my jeans size. It has changed my outlook on life. I did lose the extra weight I needed to shed and kept it off. But the real reward was what I gained with Jesus in the process. He became the best part of my journey. And I wouldn’t have missed this new found closeness I now have with Him for anything in world.

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food,” Romans 14:17-20.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lysa TerKeurst.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Food • God • Opinion

soundoff (1,314 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    Don't foget – man created God in his own Image – its all myth

    December 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  2. Beth

    I want to take this course with my bible study group. We aren't eleven women, but six. When I looked into how much it was, the book was $15 and the entire package was $45. Four of us are out of work, one has been cut back to part-time and only one of us is unscathed by this economy. Bottom line: we can't afford to do this.

    I just wish Lysa would realize that people are hurting right now. This could have been a wonderful gift if she had put this on her website for free. I know she wouldn't have received royalty checks, but she would know she was helping, really helping, some poor Jesus girls.

    December 31, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      I will give you all you need to know for free, right here, right now.

      For the diet, the two things that really matter are to reduce calories and increase exercise. To find the calories to eat, look online for a calculator that will determine your idea weight range, and also determines the number of calories to maintain that weight at the level of exercise you will do once you get down to that weight (assume nothing more than moderate exercise so you don't burn out later). Then count calories of everything you eat, staying right at that target level. This will train you all along eat at your ideal level (one of the failures of most diets). Get on the scale every morning. If you overeat one day, you have not failed – just go back to the plan the next day and do NOT think you have failed or the plan collapsed. Keep eating at this level of intake and you will stay thin. You must do it or you will not get/stay thin.

      Now start exercising, as close to every day as you can stand. Aerobic exercise like jogging or whatever is best, but really overweight people may need to powerwalk first until enough weight reduces. Powerwalk hard if you do, better in hills. Try to do very different forms of exercise in the course of the week, especially ones you enjoy, perhaps bicycling or tennis. The more fun the activity, the more likely you will keep it up. Try to exercise with friends – it helps the motivation. Once you achieve your target weight, continue to be active. Keep doing this and you will stay thin. You must do it or you will not get/stay thin.

      You will find it very hard initially to eat at the new level – your body is conditioned for the higher food intake. You will feel loust for a while, and probably get irritable. Keep exercising and dieting – it will pass.

      Your weight condition is not caused by any spiritual failure; it is a result of genetics and having previously overeaten, and you also like eating. Your body will always want to go back to the highest weight it has ever been (your body's defense against starvation that was common until recently). Some people do eat to feel better in stress, but that is deceptive, as they overeat when they are happy, sad, energetic, lethargic, angry, and during any other emotions. Overeating is not a psychological disorder or religious/spiritual failure, despite what this book huckster says (for a big price). This is where I really have problems with the author. You do not need therapy or a better relationship with God (yours is probably as good if not better than hers). You need the discipline to eat appropriately and exercise every day, nothing more. The real trick to dieting is the discipline and motivation, and if you feel you need God as a motivator, your own way of dealing with him/her will be the most effective. I did not use God in the process, and have kept 60 lbs. off for years, so God is not mandatory. Whatever motivates you is fine.

      For the spiritual things, as you are a Christian, the Bible and your church and friends will do you spledidly, especially as your weight starts coming off and you start feeling good about yourself. You don't need this woman's expensive interpretations.

      Do understand that diets by their very nature have a high failure rate – the discipline is hard to maintain, especially at first. Do not beat yourself up if that happens – you are fighting some strong forces. If you believe this woman's notion that the quality of your spirituality matters, then you will feel that you are a failure both in diet and in spirit – and that is a massive disservice to the good people seeking to get thin but cannot accomplish it (which will be most of the people reading her book).

      There it is, that's all you need from others on now to get thin, all for free. The Christian woman tried to sell fancy promises to you for a high price, the atheist gave you the scoop for free.

      Lysa is out to make a lot of money by selling lots of books and lectures and programs. There is something peculiarly not-Christlike in that.

      December 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Dusty

      Mr. Sniffles

      Kinda missed the point didn't you?

      January 18, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  3. Reality

    Humans are all accidents of birth- Want to know more?

    "John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today

    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed." – James Somerville

    It is very disturbing that such religious violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    December 31, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
  4. Arglebargle

    Like a typical American, it's easier to blame God (or anyone else) than to take responsibility for one's own actions or lack thereof.

    December 31, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  5. Donna

    Love the article – looking forward to reading your book!

    December 31, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  6. veganman

    I've kept the extra weight off by being Vegan for the last 12 years. I'm lean, healthy, and have low cholesterol.
    "God" isn't going to help you lose weight. Take responsibility for your own actions and stop wishing for some invisible higher power to fix your life.

    December 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  7. Kyla

    Thank-you Lysa for following after God and for not giving into doubts about how this book might be received! I for one cannot wait to start this "Made to Crave" journey with you all 🙂

    December 31, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • NL

      I'm sure she thanks you too for trusting that she actually is more inspired by God than profit.

      December 31, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  8. brenful

    This was a great article. God moves in us when we move ourselves out of the way

    To Doctore0- since the issue of starving children is so heavily weighted on your heart, ask God for a solution that he can use you in, and to God be the glory. We all have to did our individual parts, and Lysa's assignment at this time wasn't to address the hungry children. Maybe it's for you to do it. Just giving something to think about. God bless!

    December 31, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  9. sasha

    I know who is to blame for my fatness. Its me! I do not eat large portions and I do not try to eat away depression. No the reason for my fatness...laziness. I don't like working out, I would rather be a lump on a couch then trying to burn calories. So waht does it all mean? I have no one to blame but myself. All fat stories are the same, how people wont hold themselves accountable for their actions until they have some damned epiphany. I am lazy, I like chocolate and I am gifted at picking up things with my toes, get over it!

    December 31, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  10. Joe

    To Tamara
    I was once told by my grade 4 teacher, at a catholic school, that animals don't go to heaven, they don't have a soul. That was the moment that I stop believing in God. And this came from a very religious person. Didn't seem very loving.. Difference between animals and people.. We have a brain that is completely different, we can reason. Other than that we both have animal instints. So not much different..

    December 31, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  11. carmen

    thanks, lysa, for sharing your hope and your love of God.

    December 31, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  12. Tamara

    To: AnimalsRule

    "You know the main difference between Animals and People? Animals don't believe in God. Now between Animals and People, which one is screwing up the planet? Correlation? You bet my Atheist butt there is!"

    What makes you think animals don't believe in God? Have you ever asked one? Animals are flesh and spirit and they instinctively know their Creator. It is people who doubt.

    December 31, 2010 at 10:57 am |
    • HotAirAce

      You might want to check out: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/13/where-does-fido-go-when-he-dies

      Seems that in addition to how to lose weight, what happens to pets when they die is one of the few remaining mysteries – for those that waste their time on religion, that is.

      December 31, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  13. On Purpose- Nichole

    Hey my awesome Jesus loving friend. Did you ever think you would have this amazing opportunity of shining brightly on CNN…oh I am praising Him and dancing around this morning in my bed head and jammies…Yeah God! Thank You Lord for walking with Your precious daughter on this journey and thank You Lord for all You continue to do in her and through her. Your daughters need this message!! Amen

    December 31, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  14. dTRUTHlives

    It's great to read these opinions, rather be criticized than have the article be ignored. The article must be speaking LOUDLY to ALL readers. Perseverance goes a long way. Luke 27~36

    December 31, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • Zamiel Crow

      Yeah, because being on the front page of CNN in a sponsored, featured article has nothing to do with the response. It's all God's doing.

      It's pretty sad to watch evangelicals spend their money on books and lectures by people like her, and then turn around and talk about how "full of God's love" she is, when really, she's more full of greed for fame and your money.

      And she's full of ****, but that goes without saying for anyone who uses the Bible as guide of any sort.

      January 1, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  15. Joe

    Yes, very odd that they are Promoting this book at a time when people look to find an easy way, or something to blame if all fails. Follow the money people!!!

    Religion aside, this has more to do with money than anything. You won't see this author promoting a weight loss book in the middle of the summer, no, just around the time people are spending money and perhaps preying on a weak mind and a quick fix. Ya, Merry Christmas, that'll be $42.97 please.

    Make a change for yourself, not for someone else. Take ownership and responsiblitly, its yours and not anyone else. What happend to self respect?

    December 31, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  16. immusicmom

    I am in your starting place. Hopefully I can learn what you have learned and find a new walk with God in the New Year. Thanks you and God Bless.

    December 31, 2010 at 10:19 am |
  17. Dave Mauriello

    Dumbo thought he needed a feather to give him the comfort and self confidence to fly, too. The difference was he didn't go around telling everyone else they needed a feather in their lives, that we should praise the feather on our money and in our national pledge and motto, and certainly never hampered anyone's education, the advancements of science and medicine or even others' rights to equality due to feather belief.

    If believing in a god makes you feel good and lose weight, that's nice, but just remember there are limits to your indulgence, just as alcohol drinkers shouldn't drink and drive.

    December 31, 2010 at 10:04 am |
  18. Tracey Daniel

    Great ideea CNN to post this article right before 2011 and new year resolutions start! Lysa's biblical truths presented will help lots of people lose weight for good! We all need to rely on God's power and not "will power" because we were made to crave HIM!

    December 31, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  19. Me

    Loosing 25 pounds is a temporary happiness, finding God is eternal.

    December 31, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  20. Angie

    Thank you Lysa! And thank you CNN for posting this article. I have often had these exact feelings in my struggle to lose the last 30 lbs from after my second child was born. I now have an entirely new perspective on all of it! Keep up the good work Lysa!

    December 31, 2010 at 9:45 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.