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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. Suz

    Listen up, haters –

    Fact of the matter is that this person channeled her desire for fulfillment away from food and into something more positive in her life. This is KEY to changing a bad habit like emotional eating. Whether she chose her faith or bellydancing or yoga or underwater basket weaving is of no consequence. Fact is, she did it, and she's healthier and happier for it.

    All of you people criticizing her and saying she's "holier-than-thou" are a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Your way works for you. Congratulations. Her way works for her. Congratulations!

    December 30, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  2. Cindy

    Lysa, you have hit the nail on the head. Turning our cravings toward craving Jesus is just what He wants. When we are craving Jesus He will take care of all our needs. Thank you so much for sharing this with us "weight challenged" girls.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  3. Margie

    Thank you CNN for publishing this article. After reading the comments submitted it is clear that everyone has strong feelings about the subject. Personally, I am excited and grateful that Lysa has used her experience to teach and uplift others. The people who do not believe in God can still benefit from her experience in acknowledging their need for a source of comfort other than food or any other type of addiction. If this open discussion can reach even one person that can find hope that change is possible it will have served it's purpose. Thank you, Lysa, for planting a seed of hope that God loves us and is able to change our lives if we ask Him to. For non-believers, I hope the information you received from this article will find its way from your brain to your heart and you will open yourself to the presence of God.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  4. Bren

    Lysa, I believe in what you are stating! God is the ultimate and this is about putting him first in our lives. When we do that then with His strength we can conquer obstacles in our lives, such as weight issues. I too want to loose weight, but I know that the only way I can do this is by the Grace of God and through His strength and guidance! Thank you CNN for allowing women of God to speak to us!

    Love in Christ!

    December 30, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  5. Neil Monroe

    Both the "faithful "and the "rationalist" have to start with an assumption: God either exists or does not; it can't be proven either way. Since even the rationalist has to accept the "does not exist " as an article of faith, I'm not really impressed with the claims of intellectual superiority of the "logical" position. I call BS.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • Suz

      Whether you believe in a higher power doesn't matter.

      This person does, and she has done something positive in her life because of it.

      Your nonbelief doesn't matter a whit.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • Neil Monroe

      You mistake my position. I'm on the faith side. Careful of your biases.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • Suz

      Sorry, I read too quickly! 🙂

      I just get so disappointed in the types of arguments that these articles often create. Wish everyone could just quit trying to tell everyone else that THEIR way is the ONLY way and the RIGHT way – on either side of the fence.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • The earth is 6000 years old, stupid.

      It takes no faith to say "there is no reason to believe in god" and have no faith because of it. To say "god does not exist" requires faith since we have no reason to believe that either. Unless i believe that everything that is impossible to disprove exists than i would be logically inconsistent if i believed in god.

      In other words: If atheism is a faith then bald is a haircolor.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • Jason

      "In other words: If atheism is a faith then bald is a haircolor."

      lol, you do realize most atheists who post on these forums declare the non-existence of god and other beliefs about the nature of life of the universe as fact...
      Enjoy your baldness, I guess.

      January 3, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  6. Kristin

    Lysa, I was not ready to face my problem until I read your article and your devotions. I will be buying this book today! Thank you for stepping out in your faith and helping so many, being so transparent, and sharing the truth. I pray that God will give you the strength to fight the spiritual battle in the midst of your ministry. Can't wait for the webcasts. Thank you for offering them!

    December 30, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  7. The earth is 6000 years old, stupid.

    Lysa, pat yourself on the back. You did a good job. Chalk it up to god if you want. I think there are many ways to find inspiration to help accomplish something difficult. Quit smoking, lose weight because you have kids for example. Or lose weight because you break up with your significant other. If god does that for you than good for you. Just be nicer to the gays and stop dictating what others are allowed to do with your god and I will stop hating religion so much.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  8. Shirley Smedley-Theiss

    Here's the point: Temptation always tests whether you love God more than the temptation (Rick Warren). Very encouraging article, Lysa. Thank you.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  9. On to another Diet

    I have had Jesus in my life for a very long time and I know that He is real and active in my life. Your article reminds me how jealous He is and how flitting we are as humans that get sidetracked in life with its many issues.

    Thank you for another wake up call and thank you for being that donkey (you know what this means) in my journey to beat the bulge once again.

    Jesus stays on my mind...

    December 30, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  10. Rita

    I just wanted to post what an encouraging article Lysa wrote. Letting God fill me up and help me through everything I struggle with is the best way to be. I am excited to read your learning through God so it can help me too! I have read Lysa's other studies...and Lysa has modeled life changing, inspiring ways for me to live differently. So glad she remains faithful to God. I am in shock at how many think that God is a myth. Seeing the waterfalls, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the oceans, the mountains shows just some of the majesty of a wonderful Creator. Seeking Him with all our heart, we will find Him. Lysa, thanks for sharing all your learning!

    December 30, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  11. Beth

    I enjoy the irony of the fact that an atheist can freely decry the beliefs of another, even have the audacity to deny another's claim that God helped them; while a person of another religion would be burned at the stake for telling an atheist, he in fact, was the incorrect one. Oh, the hypocrisy!
    Congratulations to the author, by the way. It's a fabulous testimony to how God can work in everyone's life.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • vel

      "I enjoy the irony of the fact that an atheist can freely decry the beliefs of another, even have the audacity to deny another's claim that God helped them; while a person of another religion would be burned at the stake for telling an atheist, he in fact, was the incorrect one. Oh, the hypocrisy!
      Congratulations to the author, by the way. It's a fabulous testimony to how God can work in everyone's life."

      Except for the people who also pray and die, remain fat, etc. And please dear, where have atheists burned people at the stake? I seem to remember that only Catholics and Protestants did that to each other and those they deemed "heretics". It seems that willful ignorance and outright lies are part and parcel of being a "good Christian".

      December 30, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  12. Linda

    Inspiration – straight from the words of God! Thanks, Lysa!!!

    December 30, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  13. Brenda

    Thank you Lysa for your insight and words of encouragement. I look forward to reading your book.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  14. Mike

    God for 25 pounds? Geez, I'll take Jarod's subway challenge over that anyday. Didn't he lose over 100???

    December 30, 2010 at 10:09 am |
    • Linda

      She didn't need to lose 100 lbs like he did. The point was not the weight loss, but that she started to fill her needs with God and not food.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • Mike

      Oh really? Thanks! I guess you don't know what being facetious is?

      December 30, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  15. vel

    Considering that the Bible says very clearly, ask and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened, that he will answer prayers as a father who would not give a serpent if asked for a fish, etc, why is it that God never does this. It always takes hard work (and not stuffing your mouth) to get anything done. You get just as much response if you'd pray at a milk jug. It's up to humans to do things, not some magical sky fairy, no matter which one, be it Christian or other. I'm always amused when such sadly selfish people think that God needs to harm themselves or to others. How many people die from your God trying to "teach" them? and why does this omnipotent, omniscient, supposedly omnibenevolent, being fail constantly?

    December 30, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  16. Barbara

    Just what I needed to hear. I've been trying to fill a void with food....God is my help! Thanks Lysa

    December 30, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  17. Michelle

    I would rather believe in a God that you say does not exist and find out I am wrong....than to not believe and find out there is. And just for the record, Oh2beanon,...God DID help my husband to stop drinking. My husband who turned to God one night and prayed the entire night WAS delivered from his addiction. He never had another drink – or desire to drink. People can poke fun of that or twist it into what ever they want, but my husband and I have the honor and peace of knowing God is directing our lives.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:08 am |
    • El Guapo

      Which god? What if the muslims are right? Or the buddhists? Or the hindus? Or mabye its one of the 2348 other gods. Its called pascals wager and its laughable at best.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • vel

      Sorry, Pascal's wager. What if the god you believe in doesn't exist and another one does? You are still out of luck and have wasted time, resources, and have selfishly assured yourself that God must *want* you to be okay when other people are suffering and get no help at all when they pray the exact same way. Must be great to feel like a special snowflake.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  18. answerman28

    And when she finally realized she just has an addictive personality and basically had to rethink why shes constantly stuffing herself.. she doesnt even take the credit and goes on some spiritual zomibie trip.. what a stupid woman. Why am I not surprised?

    December 30, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  19. AliKat

    25 pounds is not an awful lot of weight to lose. Sounds like a publisher's summer challenge. If you were obese and had lost 100 or more and transformed your life, well then you'd have your miracle. Not for 25. I won't waste my money on your book. Besides, there was already a bestseller on this subject called The Maker's Diet. Why not try that one. Did you read it?

    December 30, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • Artemis

      Except that one was a variation on Overeaters Anonymous philosophy. None of this information is really new.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  20. abuzayd

    the abundance of food and spiritual emptiness makes for a bad combination. When we start appreciating the blessings that our Creator bestowed upon us all we then stop taking things like health and our bodies for granted and start to live up to the responsibility of being stewards of ourselves, our communities, and our environment. when the motivation is based on material objectives (looking good) it tends to be fleeting and impermanent, when the motivation is based on a spiritual basis it's more powerful and lasting.

    "No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath." – Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

    December 30, 2010 at 10:05 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.