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February 14th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

My faith: When the fat girl kissed sweets goodbye

Editor's Note: Lysa TerKeurst is a woman who has finally found peace in her food and weight struggles after a 17-year battle. She wrote about her personal journey in her New York Times bestselling book, "Made to Crave."

By Lysa TerKeurst, Special to CNN

It’s estimated that Americans will spend approximately $1 billion on chocolate this Valentine’s season. But this year I won’t be contributing to this number. Sorry Hershey, for now I’ve kissed sweets goodbye. And yes, I know there are health benefits from dark chocolate, but I’ll be getting my flavonoids from green tea, fruits and veggies this year.

Why? Because on this day of love, I have decided the best gift I can give myself and my family is a healthy life, a healthy wife, and a healthy mom. And eating sweets isn’t healthy for me in this season of my life. It sends me into a spiral of unhealthy food choices.

Surprisingly, making this choice in the name of love has helped me get past the old feelings of having a pity party while the rest of America lives it up chocolate style.

I’m not feeling deprived. Because of my faith I’m feeling empowered to make this choice and it feels great.

Am I writing this to call all people to avoid sweets in the name of love?

No, I’m writing to those who are struggling with their weight and ready to go sit in the bathroom stall at work and cry today. Valentine's is a hard day for those of us whose New Year’s resolutions have left our taste buds screaming for a reprieve - a break from all the healthy sacrifices. And certainly, if you can eat one piece of chocolate and return back to healthy choices, great.

At one time, I couldn’t do that. One piece led to ten led to twenty which led to an all out reversal of pursuing healthy choices.

One of my most raw, weak places for years was my inability to find peace with my eating struggles. I hated that this had to be my issue. I hated that I didn’t seem to have the self-control other women so effortlessly exhibited. I hated that I constantly bounced from feeling deprived to feeling guilty with my food choices.

And I don’t flippantly use the word hate.

It’s reserved for the most brutal of struggles and self-loathing, which this most certainly was.

I want to share three things that have helped me if your weak place is a food struggle.

1. You are more than a sum total of your taste buds. Remind yourself when you think you want that unhealthy food option that only your taste buds want that. Your heart doesn’t crave that candy bar. Your arms don’t desire those french fries. Your brain doesn’t need those chips. Your hiney doesn’t want that cheesecake.

Only your taste buds want that. So let your arms, brain, heart, hiney, and the whole of who you are boss your taste buds around.

2. Nothing tastes as good as peace feels. As a Christian I believe God made us to walk in His peace. You were made to consume food but food was never supposed to consume you. Of all the things Jesus provided for us, peace was first on His list!

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” (John 14: 26-27).

Ask yourself, “Is this food option going to add to my peace or take away from it? Is an indulgence in a holiday of sweets going to trouble my heart in retrospect? Remind yourself when facing each food choice, “nothing tastes as good as peace feels!”

3. The scale can measure your physical weight but never your worth as a person. Do you know that? I mean do you know it the second you step on that scale and start calling yourself names you’d never let other people call you?

Here’s a little activity I want you to do this week. Go get some sticky notes. Write these words on them: beautiful, courageous, able and victorious.

Now, put these notes over the numbers on your scale and for the next five days, receive only the truth when you step on that scale.

For this week measure your progress by asking yourself these questions: Did I make healthy choices with my food this week? Did I eat for comfort instead of eating for nourishment?

Did I exercise my body and celebrate being able to do so?

If the answers are yes, I don’t need the scale to affirm that this week.

So, on this day of candy and chocolate, I’ll be celebrating with flowers and love notes. And for those of you doing the same, I pray these three whispers of truth breathe strength into a very raw, hard, and sometimes seemingly impossible struggle. Trust me, victory is possible.

Let love and grace and truth lead you to this place.

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

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Food • Opinion

soundoff (386 Responses)
  1. Janet

    Lysa your comments help get me through the day! – they come back to remind me where to look when I feel weak and those temptations; food or otherwise, pop up. We are created – by God – and yes, bad things happen here but perhaps God is waiting for US to offer that glass of water to the thirsty child in Africa (donate to any number of water organizaions that drill water for a sustainable water source in villages), food, medical care.....why do people think God has to do everything? We are capable...but how many are willing, and without inviting God in our life how many are really able to not only succeed but feel God's grace in the process?

    February 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  2. Tess Gillaspy

    Thanks, Lysa – You gave us all something to "chew on."

    February 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  3. Jenny

    Thanks Lysa! I really enjoyed your article. Wish I would have read it earlier today though....pre-chocolate:)

    February 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  4. Cindee

    Thank you Lysa. You always speak with love and truth. Always God based and right on target. It was nice to hear
    words of faith after being bombarded everywhere with chocolate this and choclate that. I too am in a season of not eating sugar and must say it was the best thing I could have done. You are amazing and thank you again for hearing God's voice.

    February 14, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Tim

    Great article!

    February 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  6. Carol

    Kudos to Ms. TerKeurst, and I don't mean the chocolate covered kind! I am praying for the peace she talks about. I don't know how many times the scale has made my day, and then that same scale has ruined my day. Especially today I did not even get on the scale because I knew I had blown it and was not at peace with myself. I am grateful for her words.

    February 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  7. Kathy

    Thanks Lisa, I needed this today. It is a difficult day and I would like to sit down and sedate myself with sweets. I needed the encouragement and appreciate it.

    February 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  8. Heather

    Thank YOU! Valentine's Day is always a difficult day as a Kindergarten teacher dealing with all the junk food that comes to school and the fact that it is my birthday, a reminder that I am another year older and still just as fat as the year before.

    I love the quote about the scale NOT determining my self worth.

    I am on Weight Watchers and today was the scale day. It is frustrating to see the same pound lost and gained over and over again, but I know I am more than that number.

    February 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Mary Mom MN

      Happy Birthday Heather. Hope your kid's party day today at school went OK...as parents–we see the junk come home too! I wish you well in your weight journey-I am reading Lysa's book now–give it a read, it is interesting to think about "why" we tend to gaint he same pounds and "why" we are seeking something when we are eaitng emotionally.

      February 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  9. Barb Winters

    I wasn't going to post until I saw all the negative comments. I wholeheartedly, 100% AGREE with Lysa. I just finished reading her book and wrote a review on my blog http://foodliesandtruth.blogspot.com/. Keep on keeping on, Lysa!

    February 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  10. PasoParent

    THANK YOU Lysa. I really needed to hear this today.

    February 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  11. Cheryl

    Great article, based in truth. Thank you for sharing your heart with us Lysa.

    February 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  12. Colleen Gudge

    I've been on the Made to Crave journey going on week five. I'm encouraged and uplifted by the webcasts. I just wish they could continue! I'm also on the Bible Study with Melissa Taylor. All this has been an enormous help in the struggles with food. It's very hard when you're a Pastry Chef and an Italian who loves to feed everyone! I've had the "How To" to diets but always failed. With the "Want To" I'm finally content with my food choices, my tastes buds are now screaming for healthier food choices and I don't suffer from so many health/mental issues. But the big bonus has been my deeper, stronger, loving relationship with God. I thank God for Lysa and all those who worked tirelessly (and got a lot of flack for it!) to help others in their struggles with not only food issues but other addictions as well. The world is a better place with people like Lysa TerKeurst who say :"Yes" to God and serve Him selflessly!!!!

    February 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  13. Jen Sandbulte

    Lysa – as I ponder you comments, one thing that rings true to me. Your religion isn't another cruth, it is how were designed and who we were meant to be. I have worked with many, many alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. that rely on God's truths to get them through the struggles of the day. I think for those that are feeling addicted to food in any fashion can find hope by looking in God's truth – the BIBLE!!! When we allow his truth to get into us, we are changed from the inside out. I think that reading between the lines of what you said tells me this... If your addiction is food, if it is your comfort, if it is what you turn to for a temporary fix.... then you need to take some drastic measures. (Like you with NO chocolate!) I can't imagine saying to a drug addict – ok everything in moderation.... just don't have it in your house! We each have to identify what area we are letting be more important to us than it should be. I heard a great speaker once say... what do you love more than God? What has become your God. For many people this varies. I gave a copy of your book today to a gal who had a serious shopping addiction that was causing her incredible financial problems. We talked at length about her finding her true source of happiness... Turn to Jesus and the bible and you will find what no piece of chocolate, hit of cocaine, or bottle of booze could ever give you!

    February 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  14. feedmechocolate

    Wait until the day after-everything will be half price.

    February 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  15. Kathy

    This writer is so expressive and gives great advice on how to be released from the cravings for the sweets,(chocolate is my vice). Eating to satisfy unfulfilled needs can mean excess weight and lower self-esteem. I think the comment she made about peace will be engraved on my heart and on a placard to remind me: "Nothing tastes as good as peace feels." The book, "Made to Crave" will surely be a classic that will guide overweight persons to a more healthy person, inside and out.

    February 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • NL

      So, her book is essentially just like every other self-help book that advises finding a positive outlet to channel impulses that currently cause you problems, right? Just an old cure repackaged for a niche market. Cleaver marketing, but hardly revolutionary.

      February 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  16. Cassidy

    Great article.

    February 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Kim

    Hi Lysa – thank you for your inspirational article, the Made to Crave book, the webcasts and the work of Psalms 31. You are precious in the eyes of the Lord and the eyes of your fellow Jesus Girls. May God continue to bless you for all you do!

    February 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  18. Name*Rae

    Thank you for your courage & honesty, Lysa.

    February 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  19. Charlotte

    Indeed. I am a good person, a moral person, a decent person. I am also not a Christian. And know what? I was able to lose and keep off 70 lbs. It doesn't require a bible and it doesn't require replacing one crutch (food, or drugs, or gambling) with another (religion). It's simply a decision. The actual process is hardly rocket science. What's hard is to actually make the decision. Once you have done that, you will not stray, you will not 'backslide', you will not 'cheat.' You simply start eating like a normal, healthy person – including the occasional treat (the operative word being 'occasional') and your body adjusts to a new, healthy weight. If you DO cheat, backslide, binge, splurge, gain, re-gain.....then you simply have not made the decision to eat properly. Nobody ties you to a wall and stuffs cheesecake and french fries forcibly into your mouth; it's all about deciding to eat or not to eat and what to eat. No moral superiority, no spiritual guidance, no hocus-pocus – just a decision.

    February 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • AAA

      Good for you, but her faith worked for her, and that is as valid as your way of losing the weight.

      February 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Colleen Gudge

      Charlotte,
      It's fortunate for you that you have not had any serious issues that would weaken your ability to be strong and stay on a diet. Most of us don't subconsciously go down a path of poor eating choices. Life has beaten the pulp out of us and to survive we go to what gets us through the day. When we are blessed to be enlightened by courageous people like Lysa TerKeurst, we are able to finally have the strength to make the right choices. It's not about being a bad person, unmoral person, etc. it's about the "Want To" that's the key. You were blessed to have your "Want To", most of us aren't. Blessings!

      February 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Ran

      Good for you. Listening to these sappy posts about 'God's truth' is unnerving. It amazes me that people can pray for God's help to lose a few pounds while at the same time, some poor child in Africa prays for a clean glass of water... These people praise God for 'giving them the strength to lose the weight while their same God lets the child in Africa die of thirst. Now either these people lost the weight themselves or God has a strange sense of priorities. These people should own up to the fact that it is them and them alone who controls their actions.

      February 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • sharon

      Ran,
      The One true God is a God of love. He has given us the gift of choice. A child dying in Africa, in the slums of Calcutta, or Mexico are the results of greed and living outside of God's Will. My God is a God of love, compassion, grace and mercy. He wants none to perish. I will be praying that you find Him. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." 1 John 4:9

      February 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So fundamentally, Sharon, your god is more concerned about helping overweight Americans who are to lazy or weak willed to deal with their greed than with saving helpless children who are victims of the greed of others. Why in the world would I want to spend eternity with such a horrid being, much less worship it?

      February 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  20. Flora

    While I applaud her will-power and determination, I have to wonder where faith comes in at the scale? Even as a devout Christian who has also struggled with weight my whole life, I've never found myself requiring a Bible to drop a few pounds.

    Also, whatever happened to moderation? I thought we were done with this self-destructive all-or-nothing approach to dieting. If you love chocolate, but can't stay out of the box, don't buy a box – just go to a good pastry shop and get one thing in chocolate. If you deprive yourself now, you're just going to fall off the wagon when you do slip.

    February 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • AAA

      Faith can help you stay away from temptation, and God's promises in the Bible remind you that God is there next to you, remind you that everything is possible with Christ who strengthens you. Yes, the Bible, my friend, has been my source of strength and determination as well, my strength to "stay out of the box". I still struggle sometimes, but not as much because the Bible reminds me that my body is "the temple of the Holly Spirit" and I have to take care of it, and that is more important than the french fries. The Bible tells you what is really important in life, so you can make your decision.

      February 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Colleen Gudge

      I agree with AAA. It saddens me that we don't lean on God in all struggles of our life. Turning your struggles to Him and taking better care of yourself is honoring Him. How can that be a bad thing? Blessings!

      February 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • sharon

      Reading the bible and quoting scripture have been the ONLY way to ward off a full binge attack. Some of us are addicted to sugar...one bite doesn't satisfy....a whole box of chocolates doesn't satisfy. Good intentions last 15 minutes. Moderation? Will power? That's why I've struggled with weight issues most of my life. Relying on my own power instead of the power of Jesus. He is the only thing that satisfies my hunger, my reasons for overeating. I suggest you get Made To Crave. Quite possibly, your issues with weight will end and your relationship with Jesus will deepen. Win win.

      February 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
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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.