|The Curse of the Skinny Jeans!|
As we get ready to discuss Chapter 12, I have to say I think this chapter was perfectly placed time-wise for the journey we've been on together. It comes at that point when many of us are starting to see a little success in our quest for fitness and maybe we're even starting to dream of the day when we'll actually reach our goal weight. Of course the temptation is to see that day as THE DAY when all our troubles will be gone. The Day when all our past temptations, struggles, and frustrations will magically disappear because we can finally fit into our skinny jeans! Honestly, I've been guilty of putting way too much emphasis on what life will be like when I reach my goal.
Don't get me wrong, I will definitely celebrate BIG TIME when the scale finally says the number I've been working toward for so long. But, I don't want to make the mistake of seeing that as the reason for this journey, because it's not. Yes, I want to be smaller. Yes, I want to wear smaller sizes. But, mostly, I want to reshape my life into one of healthy habits and activity. And, I want to reshape my heart to focus on God instead of all the foods I used to cram in my mouth without evening thinking. Basically, all the foods that got me in this mess in the first place. So, in light of all this, I see Chapter 12 coming in at just the right time for me. Maybe you feel that way as well. Let's find out as we dig into the questions. And, remember, even if you haven't read the chapter, I'm sure you will identify with what we cover here, so please don't forget to add your thoughts to this conversation!
Discussion Questions for Chapter 12
1. What fantasies do you have about what life would be like if you were at your ideal weight? Do you imagine everything in your life would somehow be better - your relationships would improve, your confidence would soar, your problems would fall away, you'd be respected, admired, obeyed? Why do you think your weight has so much power to influence your outlook on life? Jill's answer: I imagine waking up and easily finding a cute little sundress to wear. In fact, my closet would be filled with cute clothes that I don't have to worry about how I'll look in them. I'll be thin, so EVERYTHING will look good on me! Then I imagine walking downstairs into a spotless living room and kitchen, whipping up a super healthy breakfast for the family, and having time to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal before heading off for school and work. Of course the work day will fly by full of progress, productivity, and fun - absolutely no headaches. Then, the family will enjoy yet another healthy and yummy meal that I've prepared and spend some time going for a walk, reading together, or playing a board game before my daughter goes off happily to her bed and Jeremy and I have time to - well, you know, do husband/wife stuff, which of course I'll be so much more ready for each and every evening without a care or insecurity about myself and my figure. Basically, I'm tempted to believe that when I'm thin absolutely everything will be easier, better, and more thoroughly enjoyed! This is all going to come true, right? OK- OK, I hear your guffaws and belly laughs. I don't know why I'm even tempted to believe this fantasy that when I'm thin everything in life will be easy. I know a lot of thin people with a lot of problems. But, somehow, I delude myself into believing I'll somehow be different.
2. Movies and popcorn, parties and cake, ballgames and hot dogs, meetings and coffee, TV and chips. What activities do you enjoy in part or primarily because of the food attached to them? Which activities might lose all attraction for you if food weren't part of the experience? Jill's answer: Back in college I spent a summer traveling to different camps working as a counselor and a representative for my school. We would work with the kids and then at the end of the week give a presentation on why we think the students would like our college and encourage them to sign up to get more information in the mail. It was a fun summer and also a time to observe the behavior of a lot of the kids we worked with. One week I worked with a jr. high girl who on the heavy side, but such a sweet, joyful girl. However, one thing she did stuck out to me as a little unhealthy. One morning I observed her going through the day's schedule, talking to herself about what was coming up. And, she counted how many hours she had to wait from breakfast to canteen time when she would be able to buy a snack (usually a candy bar) and drink. Then she'd figure out how much time from canteen to lunch, to afternoon snack, to dinner, and then to the final time she'd be allowed to buy something from the canteen before bed time. Then she would assure herself that she only had about 2 hours between each opportunity to eat. Then she smiled and seemed ready for the day. I remember thinking, how sad that this girl who was barely a teenager was judging how fun her day would be by how long she'd have to wait between meals. She wasn't excited about hiking trails, swimming, making a cool craft, or even learning how to ride in a canoe. For her the highlights of the day were completely wrapped up in the food she'd be able to enjoy throughout it. But, you know what, this is exactly how I can view my days at times, if I'm honest with myself. I can completely associate different activities with food. And, sometimes, find myself even more excited about the food than the activity. Yes, I'm trying to change that in my life. Trying to watch a movie without eating (gasp). Trying to enjoy a party without cake or ice cream, even if others are indulging. Trying to look forward to DOING things instead what I'll be eating before, during, or after doing them. But, it's hard. I'm realizing that it takes a total reprogramming of the brain (and the stomach). That's why these words from the Bible have been so helpful t me in this process: Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. ~ Romans 12:2 (CEV)
3. "We are taught to remain in God's love so that we won't tie our happy to anything but God". To what other things besides God have you tried to tie your happy? What was the result? Do you think it's possible for you to feel full of joy even if you're not where you want to be with your weight? Why or why not? Jill's answer: I've tried to tie my happy to success at work, being a good Mommy, yummy foods, and getting lost in a TV show, movie, or novel. The result is these things don't always come through. Sometimes I don't succeed at work. Sometimes I'm not a good Mommy. Food fills for only a short while, then I'm hungry again. And, TV shows, movies, and novels all have an ending. They don't last forever. And, most times, they're a waste of time. I think the only way to be full of joy even if things aren't going my way, even if I never reach my goal weight, is to find my joy in Jesus. He is the only joy that never disappoints, never fades away, and never changes due to my performance. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever. And, the hope He offers for heaven a prize worth striving for above everything else!
4. "Incomplete people are complicated and sensitive and messy in their reactions". Who are the incomplete people in your life? Are these people triggers that make you want to eat? Are there ways in which you might be an incomplete person in someone else's life? For others as well as yourself, are you able to look beyond the incompleteness to the hurt that may be behind the messy reactions? What do you see? Jill's answer: I definitely have incomplete people in my life. I am an incomplete person. It's not necessarily incomplete people that make me want to eat. It's more likely to be a stressful day, period. Whether it's caused by my situation, workload, cramps, my child being sick, a concern over finances, or all of these things, incomplete people may add to the stress but they alone don't cause me to eat. At almost 41, I believe I'm finally at a place where I do try to look past a messy or even hurtful reaction or comment by an incomplete person and try to at least remind myself that their lashing out has more to do with them than me. That they are coming from a broken place; a place in need of healing. Of course, I'm not always able to remember this FIRST in the middle of a conflict or right after a hurtful scenario, but I do try to get there instead of lashing back or working hard to prove why I was right! Usually what I see when I'm able to look at the person rather than their actions or words is a broken heart, a disillusioned soul, and someone who's grasping for some sense of control in a life that feels completely out of their hands! And, boy have I been there!!
5. Compassion for incomplete people - including ourselves - translates into acts of kindness. When you think of the incomplete people in your life, especially those who may be eating triggers, how might a compassionate act of kindness change how you feel about that person? How might it changes how you feel about yourself and your own incompleteness? Jill's answer: It's kind of like those times you feel God putting an act of kindness on your heart that you know doesn't make sense. He tells you to go buy a cheeseburger for that guy holding a sign in the middle of the road who looks and acts like a meth-addict. And, you also give him some money or something else of value. Your brain tells you he's only here because of his own choices. He's going to waste that money on drugs or alcohol. He's not even going to eat that cheeseburger. Other people are going to think what you're doing is stupid. But, when you give it to him and you look into his eyes, even for a brief nano-second, and see the pain behind them, you realize...it's enough to have simply been obedient to the urge God placed on your heart. You've just said that the person is more important than his actions. You're giving to him even though he may squander the gift. You're giving to him despite the wrong choices he's made. You're giving to him even though he might not say thank-you. You're giving to him because he matters. And, you realize, I am the same as this man. Maybe you can't see my addictions (except for the fat that has resulted because of one of them), but I also have a weak spirit when it comes to wanting to make changes but finding it too hard to do so. And, how many times has God given me priceless gifts that I've either ignored or used irresponsibly? And, yet, He still gives! How many wrong choices have I made that must break His heart over and over again? And still, I am more important to Him than those choices. I'm more important to Him than the gifts I've misused. I'm more important to Him than my many weaknesses. He did not and does not give to me because I've earned it, deserve it, or will even use His gifts in the way they were meant to be used. He gives to me because I matter to Him. And, if I can apply this thought process when I'm led to give to a total stranger...can't I do the same with the people in my daily life who sometimes make it difficult? I can give them the gift of forgiveness even though they might not ask for it. I can give them the gift of understanding even though they might throw it away. I can give them the gift of grace even though they might misuse it or fail to thank me. Because I've been given these gifts time after time after time by the One who knows me better than I know myself. The One who knows my incompleteness and longs to make me complete. Because He gives to me, I can give to others. And, I have to remember a verse that has to do with more than money or material wealth, but with all of God's gifts: Much will be required of everyone who has been given much.~ Luke 12:48 (NIRV) or, as it's phrased in The Message: Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!
Excuse me, friends, but I feel the need to stop and pray right here. Please join me if you'd like:
Thank you, Dear Jesus, for the countless gifts you have given me. I don't deserve them. I haven't earned them. I so often misuse or neglect them because of fear, insecurity, ignorance, or apathy. Please help me to receive each and every gift from You freely and gratefully. Please help me to use each gift You give me in a way that will help me serve You and make a difference in someone else's life. And, please help me to give to others as freely as all of Your gifts have been given to me! AMEN!!!!
Woo-hoo! I feel more like I've just completed a Bible study than a chapter about learning to give up food cravings. But, I guess it's all intertwined, right? I hope you have receive a lot of insight after this chapter and taking time to read through the discussion questions above. Now, it's up to you. Keep the discussion and the encouragement going. Tell me what you've been tempted to believe will happen when you reach your goal. And, tell me about how you handle those incomplete people in your life. Can't wait to read your comments!