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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. Mary B.

    Lysa! You know you speak the truth, keep on doing it, we know where the negative comes from, and we know it can't touch you! Your grace and bravery speak volumes! We love you! See you tonight on the web!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  2. Loretta Pearson

    Thanks Lysa, what great words of encouragement. I am on the Made To Crave journey and experiencing such peace and helthy changes in both me and my family as a result of what I'm learing! God does give his Peace. This Valentines day I asked for flowers not chocolate! (first time ever) and I'm feeling very loved by flowers and victorious at not binging on chocolate! Thanks for sharing Lysa!!!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  3. mymaria

    Thanks for the great article. I've been feeling the Holy Spirit nudging me to be more aware of what I'm eating and why I'm eating. HIS peace is what I seek and I haven't been comfortable with my food choices lately. Thanks for pointing out where true peace comes from!!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Scott in NYC

    That is a wonderful story of strength. I personally don't prescribe at all to the religious aspect because I think Lysa did it all on her own but her actual faith pulled her through. God doesn't do it for us, honey, we do it ourselves. However, I believe her message to be that of faith in general and hers happens to be the Christian faith. Lysa has obviously found that important and oh-so-elusive inner peace that is the most important part of one's life, in my opinion. I'm happy for Lysa and her family.

    February 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Mary B.

      She did not say God did it for her, she said God helped her focus on what was important and where to put her trust, not in food but in the Lord. That is what she is saying here.... The book is wonderful, I recommend it to anyone who wants to refocus on any issue you are having, take out the word and put in your struggle! So much good from such a humble servant of God, she rocks!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  5. Lacey C.

    This was written perfectlly, Lysa. What a timely word of encouragement for me today. Thank you!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Mary B.

      AMEN!!!!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  6. TonyGa

    Eat Less – Move More. What a concept. Throw in a little will power. Good luck !!!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Janet

    Praise Jesus for the grace he gave you write this article and thanks for the encouragement. I've also noticed that eating chocolate, cake, or other sweets lead me to make other wrong choices in food. I'm feel great when I snack on veggies, fruits, and nuts. May everyone reading this comment prosper in health and in their soul.

    February 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  8. Dee

    Oh, please. There are people out there with real problems. You're so greedy you eat too much, that's on you. Show a little discipline, people.

    February 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Mary B.

      Greed has nothing to do with addiction. I hope you never have to face one. If you do, Lysa is great source of strength because she has walked down that path.

      February 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • MoodyMoody

      Ms. TerKeurst did show some discipline. She used her faith to help, but she did the work herself. What's your point?

      February 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  9. Maria

    I have a similar story, but with out the rehtoric. I have always just assumed I would die young, seems a trend in my family for women. So I paid no attention to my health. But with my 37th birthday next week I realized (and it may be obvious) that I am closer to 40 then to 30. And my mother got sick at 51. I looked at my 5 year old and decided that although he will be in his twenties by the time I am the age my mother died at, he will still need me. As I needed my mother at 25 when I lost her.
    I have signed up for a weight loss plan, quit smoking and started a regular exercise plan. Although there are days I just want to quit it all, I think about my kids again, and how little boys always need their mom and I do what I have too.

    February 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Mary B.

      That is great Maria! I am happy for you and so is God!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  10. Jennifer

    Wow, deep message. Although I don't deal with weight, I do deal with healthy choices (or lack of), and know how crummy I feel when I make choices that my body does not appreciate. I know how empowering it is to conquer those temptations, but it is so hard. Perhaps because I'm trying to do this alone! Why do I think I can only call on Jesus for the big-ticket items? I need Him in my life 24/7.

    February 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Mary B.

      Amen to that! Just realizing that is a huge step toward making healthy choices. Check our Lysa's web site, you will find lots of support to make changes! And no, I am just a believer in the power of prayer, I don't work for Lysa!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  11. J.M. Pelland

    Faith and sticky notes aren't methods of learning self control. They're just excuses to make yourself feel better. Perhaps a good pearl of wisdom you could have imparted (because it's something I experienced when I gave up on sugar overdoses) is that the cravings actually go away when you stop feeding them. I used to drink gallons of chocolate milk every week. It's my favorite drink in the world and so giving it up wasn't easy, but the best thing about not being addicted to it anymore is that I can choose to drink it in moderation and still enjoy it just the same. Don't let your cravings rule you, you can beat them!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Julie

      If you read Made to Crave, you will see that Lysa does talk about the sugar cravings going away when you stop feeding them. This short blog is but a glimpse of what you could learn if you read the whole book 🙂 (and, I'm nearly finished reading, so I can't speak for the entire book)

      February 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  12. E.L. Anderson

    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!”

    If Jesus didn't want you to eat chocolates, then maybe he shouldn't have made chocolate so darned delicious!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Carolyn

      Chocolate is one of God's greatest acheivement...I am sure She patted her own back amongst other angels/saints. I have not read the book, but I wonder if the author bowed more so to what men visually desire of women more so than loving herself whatever body type she was given. God doesn't condemn fat people only thin people do that. Now addictions are another story or using food to comfort, etc. I am sure more women have read this book = what do you really think?

      February 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  13. Andrea

    Thank you Lysa, for you article and sharing such personal things with the world!!! This book (which I have just finished) has been a blessing to me and I know it will continue to be a blessing to many many more. And I am celebrating tonight by teaching a great fitness class to help those who maybe overindulged in the holiday! And yummy yummy fruit is my treat for today!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  14. Honk

    greep, then look for your own higher power or something else for that matter. She's telling you what helps HER. She's not saying EVERYONE must receive their strength or support from the same corner. Find another solace but don't moan about someone elses!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  15. Shannon

    Lysa, you are so encouraging. I have been strugging for over a year and half with food and your words are so comforting. I've said many thank you prayers to our Lord since finding you!

    February 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  16. Michael

    God didn't do it lady. You did. If God did what everyone says he does, you could have prayed, and the problem would have been solved. It doesn't work, and deep down inside, everybody knows it. So throw away the crutches, and enjoy your success, and your freedom.

    February 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • golfer

      Michael, she was able to overcome her battle with food by God's grace and allowing her to make choices that would please Him and ultimately give her peace. God defines gluttony as a sin. Anything that comes before Him...so she did pray for His help and guidance. Yes she physically made the choices to change and her body changed, but her faith allowed her to overcome the addiction. God gives us free will. And just because we pray "God, please help me lose 100 pounds in the next 3 months' doesn't mean He just will take the weight off you, you have to make different choices. Just like if you are in a bad relationship or have a disease. You pray for guidance and follow the light. And you will find peace every time.

      February 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Mary B.

      If you let God into your heart, you might be surprised at how much He really does do for you. Something to ponder, or pray about!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @golfer

      You said: "God gives us free will."

      If God knows the future, that means that the future is predictable and cannot be changed. This, in turn, means that our actions are predetermined. If god is all knowing, free will can not exist.

      If god has a "plan for each of us", then that pretty much screws up your free will. LOL

      Jeremiah 29:11
      For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

      The Bible says, "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!" [Psalm 139:16]

      Let's look at Jesus and his predictions that Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him. Those were future events. Do you think Judas could have used his free will to opt out? Not if Jesus/God was omniscient. Same goes for Peter.
      The actions of Peter and Judas were predestined. They had no choice.

      What about the child who is murdered by a monster, or a people slaughtered by a stronger opponent (or a god)?

      Did they choose to be harmed? Where was their free will? These acts show that the strong or the people in power have greater free will than their victims. Hmmm...

      There is no evidence that a god gives or safeguards human will.

      You said: "And just because we pray "God, please help me lose 100 pounds in the next 3 months' doesn't mean He just will take the weight off you, you have to make different choices. "

      Yep, and you can't ask god to dig a ditch. You have to grab a shovel and dig. You can't ask god for anything, without taking action – without doing it yourself. This is because prayer does not work. LOL

      Believers are funny! You build a house, take out the trash, or lose 10 lbs, by restricting your eating and you give god the credit.

      Golly, I bet followers of Judaism or Islam have lost weight, built a house, etc. with the help of their god. How does that happen?

      I bet you could find atheists who have lost weight, etc.

      Your god is a product of your own deluded mind.

      Cheers!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  17. greep

    Can I find help without the Christian rehtoric please? I'm glad that this woman's faith helped her, but it sure isn't helping me.

    February 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Stephen

      You sure can, but probably not on the Belief Blog...

      February 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • mkul

      I totally agree. What if I am Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist? It's a little arrogant to quote YOUR bible as the true bible. We all have our own beliefs, bibles, and religions......I realize it's the Faith section, but lets be a little more empathetic, multi-cultural, and diversified.

      February 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • bsr

      Maybe you need to look on a different site. This is a religous blog.

      February 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Carolyn

      Mkul, don't all those other walks of faith teach peace as well?

      February 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @greep

      I posted this earlier. I think it might be valuable to you:

      If you aren't happy, stop eating. Forget glandular conditions, genetics, big bones, depression or whatever. You are overweight because you stuff food into your mouth.

      Eating is the problem. Perhaps a regimen of eat and purge...? A pretty, thin girl sticking her fingers down her throat, isn't all that disgusting.
      So, going from Yuck to Yum is in your hands...or fingers. No expensive gym memberships, potions, videos, personal trainer, or Jesus needed.

      No need to thank me. If I can give the world one more cute skinny girl, I have my thanks!

      Disgust is a relative term, highly dependent on how cute the girl. – just my opinion.

      Good Luck!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Carl S.

      People! This is a Belief blog! If it doesn't suit your particular belief, than don't read it! If you're not religious, you shouldn't bother being in this blog in the first place! This article was fine: it states it is the views of the writer . . . if you don't like it, move on to the next Blog! I'm not Muslim or Jehovah Witness or Mormon – I don't ever bother going to those blogs . . . I don't care to even leave remarks there! Why do non-Christians feel compeled to go to Christian Blogs and complain all the time?!!?This Blog doesn't have to be Politically Correct – if you don't like it: don't read it! What a bunch of ding-a-lings!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Carolyn

      Rock on Carl! I concur! There are way too many atheist trolls (ironic) on CNN's Belief blog. They have their own websites to share their opinions. It is inappropriate here. And fellow believers let's take back this blog!

      February 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Loretta Pearson

      Lysa and many of us have found the needed help to overcome our eating problems in God. So if Lysa leaves out the source of her strength to overcome, then there's nothing to write about! That's not saying you must follow her advise or the Made To Crave books information. She is just presenting how she was successful with her God's help. This is a religous perspecitve on wieght loss. If you don't want Christian info then you would need to search out one of the many other books on wieght loss that flood our book stores.

      February 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Carl S
      @Carolyn

      I am hurt.

      It is my opinion, that all believers are delusional. I believe it to be curable, by applications of reality.

      If you are allowed to reinforce your delusions by agreeing with one another, then the disease becomes more ingrained. It reinforces believer's skewed view of how things are.

      I administer your medicine! I show you how silly your beliefs are. I shine the light of reality on your imaginary world.

      I am the boy on the playground that clued you in, that Santa wasn't real, when you were 6.

      I want you to think of me as your Uncle Dave (or Tio Dave for our Spanish speaking believers). I am honest with you. I tell you things that your mothers never would. There is no monster under the bed. There is no daddy in the sky.

      Listen and think! Don't be afraid! It will set you free!

      Cheers!

      February 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Carolyn

      David Johnson, go embrace your fellow atheists. You cannot prove God doesn't exist. And I seriously doubt you will change any believers mind. Sad you find taking someone's faith away as a vocation or just for amusement. You wonder why most people cannot stand atheists. Faith is personal although atheists say 'oh one cannot prove God from a personal standpoint' – I say why not 'who made that rule anyways?' (probably an atheist)

      February 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • cm

      David Johnson – so what happened that hurt you so deeply that you turned your back on your Creator? From my experience with people who claim to atheists when they talk about there freedom in non-believing or boosting how superior they are being an atheist you can hear that their non-beliefs are just as personal as those who do believe....so David where do you stand on your beliefs?

      February 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Carolyn

      You said: " You cannot prove God does not exist"

      Hmmm... No one can prove a negative. No one can prove absolutely that something does not exist. I cannot "prove" Santa or the Easter Bunny does not exist. No one can.

      But in life, we do decide by a preponderance of the evidence, whether something exists or not.

      1 Corinthians 13:11
      When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

      When I was 5, I believed in magic and things unseen. When I was 7, I gave up childish notions.
      Childish beliefs should be abandoned by every adult, if they haven't done it earlier.

      We reject Santa and the Easter Bunny, because we know that there are children who don't receive any toys for Christmas. Kids of rich parents receive more and better toys than the poor kids. Carrying all those toys and sliding down chimneys is not believable. Saying Santa is magic doesn't satisfy us.

      Santa doesn't fit in with how things really are. The jolly old elf, just isn't probable.

      God is like Santa. He is a fictional being. He doesn't fit in, with how things really are.

      Because believers want god to be real, they use selective observation, make excuses and hold onto expectations that are very,very unlikely – Jesus has been dead for 2000+ years. He hasn't returned, in spite of predicting a 1st Century 2nd Coming. All the born again believers will float up to heaven. When we die, our souls survive to be rewarded or punished. Like Santa, you will receive more or less gifts, depending on what the elf observes. So you better watch out. You better not pout... an invisible somebody is watching you all the time. LOL

      Bad things happen to good people. Bad people often live long lives in the sun.

      God is said to be all good. But there is so much suffering in the world. God did horrible things in the Old Testament. Reality, calls this attribute of being "all good" into question.

      Prayer does not work. Jesus made promises about prayer, that you can test. So test them. Ask for anything – A new car, world peace, that Jesus would appear to you... or, move a mountain. Faith will move a mountain. You seem like a faith filled sort of person.

      When people pray, they are talking to themselves. When god starts talking to them, we start to worry. We believe it is a sign of mental illness.

      There are no miracles. Miracles are just the product of coincidence and random chance. Or, deception and fraud.

      Science can find no use for god. All the gaps in man's knowledge, that are filled by god, are being filled by scientific discoveries.

      Evolution has dispelled the myth of creation. There is tons of evidence for Evolution. None for Creation.

      If Adam and Eve did not exist, then there could not have been original sin. If no original sin, then all the suffering humans and animals endure, could not be because of it. If no original sin, then there is no need for a redeemer. If no redeemer, then why is there Christianity?

      So Carolyn, there is more evidence that there is no god then is for there being a god. Your belief in god is based on faith. Faith in something does not make it true. Faith without evidence is worthless.

      I claim there is no god, with the same confidence that I claim there is no Santa or Easter Bunny.

      If extraordinary evidence surfaces, that Santa exists, I will embrace him. Every adult should take this stand. God is just the Santa for adults.

      Love and Prayers!

      February 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @cm

      You asked: "so what happened that hurt you so deeply that you turned your back on your Creator?"

      I am not turning my back on my creator. I don't think a creator exists.

      When I was 7, I started to question Santa. How did he get into my house? We didn't have a chimney. How could he carry all those toys for all the kids? How could reindeer pull a sled and make it fly? I pestered my dad for answers. When he offered up "Santa is magic", I dismissed it.

      Finally, my dad admitted that Santa was made up, to delight children. I wasn't delighted. I felt that I had been lied to. In the following days, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy went the way of Santa.

      In Sunday School, I began asking, questions. I asked them, so often and so insistently, that I was removed from the group. I was a detriment to the other children's indoctrination. Some, were actually starting to join in my questions.

      The good reverend met with me and my parents once a week, in an effort of "set me straight". Eventually, I just sat with my parents during church service. This was so, for the next 7 years or so.

      Once I discovered biology, and earth science, I found truth.

      Cheers!

      February 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • MoodyMoody

      @David Johnson, I believe that you are irresponsible for appearing to condone bulimia. I don't care half an iota about your atheism, but I do believe that bulimia is a serious psychological problem that you shouldn't promote. If you were sarcastic, you didn't make that clear enough.

      February 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • cm

      David you show your lack of depth...God is a verb not a noun. Faith is more than Santa. Go to a atheist messageboard you have become quite boring and your agendas will not materialize here.

      February 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • cm

      PS: David, there is scientific proof prayer soes work. Experiment after experiment...just have to have access to a medical journal database. There is more data proving prayer works than viceversa. Bottom line you choose not to believe. The universe could do backflips for ya and you still would be a stubborn atheist – cuz you already made up your mind. Take a rational laxative and see what happens.

      February 14, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  18. Sarah

    I am so pleased with the peace that I have found as a result of replacing my cravings for chocolate with trusting God to help me deal with those upsetting or frustrating things in life. I so appreciate your book, Lysa, because it helped me find contentment in seeking God instead of settling for chocolate instead.

    February 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • mkul

      My point is why not just say God? To quote a chapter in the Bible is meaningless to someone who is not a Christian. Would you be supportive of this article if it were written by a Muslim who quoted the Koran? Or a Jew who quoted the Torah? My guess is, that a majority of people would probably not be supportive, some would even be offended....

      February 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  19. Melinda

    I really appreciate this article's timeliness on a day when indulgence seems so necessary. Thanks also for Made to Crave, which has helped me better understand the power and pleasure of eating healthfully.

    February 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  20. Cile

    I had the pleasure of finishing "Made to Crave" this weekend. Whew! There are so many wonderful truths in those pages that are applicable to food but also to anything we put before God. This week I am reflecting on and re-reading those truths so that I can be equipped. Changing our "cravings" and our routines will take time, but it is definitely doable! Thank you for being such a faithful, truthful encourager, Lysa!

    February 14, 2011 at 1:43 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.