Failure? (Wellness Post #2)

Week two of the elimination phase down!

Were you afraid I forgot to write last week? I didn’t. I planned to, I really did. But I kept putting it off until the end of the week, and then other responsibilities became higher priorities—that, and, I just didn’t really feel like writing. Why—because the thought of sitting down to type was too tiresome? No. Because I wanted to be able to write about what a success last week was. And I simply couldn’t do that. Because it was not a success. At least not in the way I’d like to think of it.

Following this diet is hard. The real challenge is not so much avoiding certain foods as it is the time and preparation that has to go into making all of my meals, because I’m so limited in what I can eat. To avoid eating the same things over and over again, it takes creativity, and I was just so mentally exhausted that I didn’t feel like exerting that kind of creative energy. Physically exhausted, too. A lot of the time, I just didn’t feel like cooking. So you know what I ate a lot of last week? Rice cakes. Rice cakes with coconut oil and agave syrup and salt, rice cakes with avocado and agave syrup and salt, rice cakes with ghee and jam and salt, rice cakes with coconut oil and jam and salt. A lot of stinkin’ rice cakes. Because they’re cheap and quick and carby, and, when I add things like agave syrup and jam and coconut oil, they’re sweet and fattening. And my body’s like, mmmm gimme more. So instead of cooking chicken and some veggies for lunch, I have a quick rice cake for a snack because I’m hungry, and one turns into ten in place of a meal.

Remember how I was concerned about losing weight on this diet? Not the case. Not the case at all. In fact, I’ve noticed I’m steadily gaining. That should be cause for celebration, because I lost so much and not in a healthy way. But remember how I said I was actually kind of excited about the possibility of losing more weight (sad, I know)? So the slow and steady gain is not so exciting. In fact, it’s been kind of depressing. And thus I didn’t want to write because last week was a failure. I didn’t make all the pre-planned meals that I, in fact, didn’t pre-plan; I didn’t actually make very many meals at all. I ate a lot of rice cakes. And fruit. And gained weight. And got depressed. So I ate some more. Because even though I was depressed about gaining weight, the temporary pleasure of sweet, fatty, rice cakes in my mouth seemed to take that away for a little bit—or so I thought. But not really. It ended up just making me feel worse in the long run. Worse about overindulging, and worse about the fact that I was depressed over gaining weight—because I shouldn’t be so concerned about my appearance.

As much as this week was a failure in the sense that I didn’t have three square meals a day, and didn’t earn a gold star for shining self-control, it wasn’t a waste because I learned from it. I learned a lot about what’s in my heart. And as much as I didn’t want to write about my rice cake habit, I think I was more hesitant to write because my failures exposed what’s in my heart. That’s painful to admit to myself, never mind to others.

But that’s the very thing that fuels me today, that spurs me to write. Because writing through this journey is not about the rice cakes I did or didn’t eat. It’s about helping me to process what I’m learning through it, and therefore hopefully be a blessing to you as perhaps you can learn something from what I’m learning, too. Things like:

  1. Regaining health is a process.Okay, if you thought I was an obsessive, indulgent freak, I wouldn’t blame you. Even after vowing several times that I would give up health blogs/books, I didn’t. I kept going back to them for my next high. “Aha! So THIS is what I’m doing wrong!” Or, “Okay, so I just need to tweak this, or that,” is what I’d think based on my latest reading. Even though I was seeing positive changes in my health (the eczema on my hands has almost completely disappeared! 😀 And for the most part, my upper abdominal discomfort has dissipated), I was still not seeing changes in other areas, and saw new symptoms arise (after a rise in energy and seeing those “episodes” of fatigue/feeling faint/dizziness/weakness/headache/twitchiness pretty much disappear the first week, the energy plummeted again and the “episodes” reappeared; I also exchanged the upper abdominal discomfort for lower abdominal discomfort and bloating, and have noticed an increase in joint pain). So, back to the health books/blogs I went to figure out where I might be going wrong. I kind of jumped on the RRARFing bandwagon (rehabilitative rest and aggressive re-feeding–you can google it if you’re curious), and gobbled up Matt Stone’s book, Eat for Heat, faster than a rice cake with coconut oil and strawberry jam. But of course, I took it to the extreme and ran with it, thus eating copious amounts of rice cakes. But I didn’t feel better. In fact, I just felt guilty. Rightly so, because I was being gluttonous. And maybe all the rice I was consuming was starting to bother my stomach. “Maybe there is something to this whole grain-free kick!” I thought. Don’t worry, I’m not there yet. But, I’m willing to give it a try eventually if all else fails and it means regaining health. Anyway, when things didn’t seem to change as fast as I thought they should, I got discouraged. I thought I was doing enough right (I was sticking to the diet and avoiding the things that aren’t allowed) to be feeling better—and I am! But I think without realizing it I was hoping for more of a quick fix, and when immediate recovery didn’t come, I got discouraged. I had to step back and remind myself, “This isn’t a quick fix. It’s not going to happen overnight.” Instead of being frustrated over not-yet changes, I can be thankful for the already-happened changes. Instead of getting down about the failures, I can ask the Lord for forgiveness, and for help to exercise self-control.
  2. Regaining health is a means; not the end.When I was frustrated over my health still not being where I think it should be, I stopped and asked myself, “Why do I want to be healthy?” I found my answer to be a rather selfish one. I didn’t like the pain and discomfort that came along with not being well. My goal was comfort. Health was the end. I just wanted an end to the stomach discomfort and the debilitating fatigue and the headaches and panic attacks and all the other nagging issues. When I realized that was my answer, I then asked myself, “Why should I strive to be healthy?” And I realized I was far from striving for the right goal. My goal is to honor God. In everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). When I’m not eating and drinking to His glory, when I’m not doing the best I can to take care of the body God had entrusted to me, I’m not honoring the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Paul says earlier in that chapter that we’re not to be mastered by anything; not even food (vv. 12-13). So I should strive to be healthy by not being mastered by food, because when I am, I’m not honoring the temple. And being healthy frees me up to have more strength and energy to minister to others in the ways that the Lord has called me to. Becoming healthy, as much as is in my power to do so, is simply a means of honoring the Lord and seeking to be the vessel He desires to use. Health itself is not my aim. In making it such, I’ve made it an idol. Again, not something I wanted to admit. But it needs to be confronted in order for it to change. So, there. I’ve said it. I’ve made my health an idol. And in realizing such, you know what else I’ve realized? I’m not entitled to good health. God’s Word makes it clear that we’re to be stewards of what He’s entrusted to us, including our bodies. But even if I’m doing absolutely everything humanly possible to become and remain healthy, I’m still not promised perfect health. I live in a fallen world. I can eat all the right things and drink the right amount of water and get the right amount of sleep, and there will still be days when I have a headache, or my stomach hurts, or I have joint pain. Those things aren’t necessarily a reflection of failure on my part to ensure health. They are simply a part of life. And God is sovereign. He could very well answer my request to be healed by zapping away every little ailment if He so chose. But in His sovereignty, He knows what will most make me dependent on Him, and show His power to the world. If illness is it, then His grace is sufficient. And like Paul, I can boast all the more gladly in my weakness, because in it Christ’s strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12).
  3. While it’s not okay to overindulge and throw self-control out the window, my weight and outer appearance do not define who I am or determine my worth.My friend was wise to warn me going into this process. Body image has been a struggle for me since I was young. Despite knowing intellectually the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, my heart actually believed that I was not beautiful. And without realizing it, most of the time my redeeming thought was, “Well, at least I’m skinny…” Yep. I’ve been there. While I struggle at times with being satisfied with the face in the mirror, by the grace of God, I’ve grown leaps and bounds in this area. However, I still grapple with the issue of finding my worth in the size and shape of my body. I liked the way I looked when I was ten pounds skinnier. I thought it made me more attractive, and I liked that. So when my overindulgence brought those ten pounds back, I allowed it to discourage me. I allowed it to discourage me because I started to fear, “What if I keep gaining?” And I was scared that a continual gain in weight would render me unattractive and thus less valuable. But to whom? Did I really think my friends and family, those who already love me, would love me less if I gained weight? No. And when it comes down to it, do I think it will mean God will love me less? No. Sure, I know when I choose to sin against Him by making unhealthy choices that I am grieving Him. But I know He doesn’t love me less. I know this, intellectually. The thing is, after eighteen years of walking with Jesus, sometimes I still struggle with believing that He loves me at all. Oh, I’d never tell you I don’t think Jesus loves me. But without my mind realizing it, my heart has believed it to be true. So that’s why I go looking for validation in other sources. I’ve essentially said, the Cross wasn’t enough to speak of my value to You, Creator of the Universe. I need to be important to people. To men. Even if it’s only that they think I’m attractive.

    Do you know how empty that’s left me? When I started to get the attention from men I craved, I thought I had gotten what I wanted. I thought it would fill me up. It didn’t. It left me feeling more empty. And here I am tempted to run back to that same source, tempted to feel depressed because I fear that gaining weight will take away the validation I find in men considering me attractive.

    Wow! I learned all that from diet failures? God is good, isn’t He? I’m glad He’s willing to take even my failures and shortcomings and use them to show me what’s in my heart. I’m glad He loves me enough to show me what’s there, not so He can throw it in my face like His enemy so often does, but to uproot it and replace it with the truth. I needed to be reminded this week that my value is determined by the fact that I am made by the hands of, and in the image of, an Almighty, Awesome, Beautiful Creator and God, who delights in me and died for me even when I didn’t deserve it. I needed to be reminded that He’s more concerned about the condition of my heart than the weight of my body. I needed to be reminded that if the attention I crave from men never comes, I am loved beyond measure by God—and even if that attention does come, it will not fill me. It will not satisfy. Looking to it to do so will only leave me feeling empty. But Christ fills to overflowing like only He can do. And wants to!

Are you with me at all? Have you ever been tempted to find validation in the attention of men—or people in general? Do you ever feel discouraged and look to food to fill that void, too? Doesn’t it just leave you feeling empty?

Well, here’s what I’m prescribing for myself this week—maybe you’ll find it helpful, too:

I’ve joined the Online Bible Study, Made to Crave, courtesy of Proverbs 31 Ministries. It’s free to sign up; you just need a copy of the book, Made to Crave. I find it fitting that it happens to be coinciding with my journey to health. God’s timing is perfect, isn’t it? Speaking of such, someone I was talking to this week suggested I read Psalm 139 each night before bed, without even knowing my body image issues. What a great suggestion—it’s one I’m taking. And when I’m tempted to overindulge, to get frustrated over the not-yet changes, to get discouraged about gaining weight and potentially losing the attention I desire, I’m going to stop and ask myself, “What is it that I’m really craving, seeking, desiring?” Whether it’s comfort or validation, it’s something I’m craving in place of God. Once I identify that, I’m going to remind myself of the only One I’ve been made to crave: God. I’m going to choose to meditate on Made to Crave’s Online Bible Study verse of the week, Psalm 84:2: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; y heart and flesh cry out for the living God” (NIV).

So, who’s with me? If you decide to implement some or all of these things, will you let me know how it goes?

What are some other ways you combat feelings of failure, and temptation to find comfort and validation apart from Christ? I’d love to hear your stories of success in fighting the battle. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Failure? (Wellness Post #2)

  1. jamywhitaker says:

    Tamara, I love how raw and real you are in this post. You are right, our choices, successes or failures don’t define us, God does. Praying for you and your Made To Crave journey.

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