Winning at Losing

Compulsive overeaters have a unique challenge unlike other addictions. For example, an alcoholic is told, “You have a ferocious tiger - a wild beast that wants to destroy you. You’ve got to cage it up and never let it out again.”

The compulsive overeater is told, “You have a ferocious tiger - a wild beast that wants to destroy you. You’ve got to cage it up then take it out for a walk three times a day.” Unlike other addictions, complete abstinence from food is impossible. Disordered eating has to replaced by a normal and healthy relationship with food.

Let me confess, I have struggled with compulsive overeating my entire life. Apart from 13 years ago, when I got down to a healthy body weight for the first time in my life, I have been obese all of my life.

After achieving that goal, I managed to maintain a healthy relationship with food and my body for several years. I felt better than I had in decades. When my weight first started to inch back up, the compliments still kept rolling in. People had said I looked too skinny at 185 pounds. I accepted their verdict. I wasn’t worried about the weight gain.

But it was when I began training and running in marathons that my healthy routines were most interrupted. Up to that point, I had had a fairly predictable exercise regimen. I would go to the gym 5 to 6 times a week and do cardio for an hour. I consistently burnt off roughly the same amount of calories every day. But when I started running (especially longer distances like 9-15 miles), I would expend a great deal of energy and burn off even more calories. I had to consume more food on running days because I needed it. But before long, I was eating like everyday was running day.

In addition to interrupting a discipline of daily exercise that had served me well, I fell back into old patterns of self-neglect. Lots of travel and little rest, coupled with a lot of unhealthy eating made me balloon back up very near the heaviest weight I had ever been.

A couple of months ago, I began seriously considering weight loss surgery. I was feeling desperate – terribly desperate. I felt completely powerless. I lacked even the most basic motivation to address my eating and excess weight. Yet, all the excess weight was causing me problems. Everything is more difficult when you are heavy. International travel is uncomfortable. Energy to play with the grand-baby or to go to the park or even to take a walk is more limited. Health issues begin to multiply. Something had to be done. I was at the end of my rope.

Brenda was supportive and concerned. So I began the process in earnest. I was evaluated at a surgical center - completed a ton of paperwork, had a stress test on my heart, did all the blood workup. The next requirement was a nutritional class.

I was told, things would have to change after surgery. No more soft drinks after surgery (the carbonation can expand the stomach). Supplements would be required for the rest of my life since the surgery can compromise the body’s ability to absorb things like calcium and iron. Healthy eating was also a must – consuming only lean meats, cutting back on consumption of carbs and sugar as well as portion control. So I figured, “If I have to do this anyway, I might as well get started.” At least that way, I’d be used to it by the time surgery was completed. But that’s when the unexpected happened.

My body began responding wonderfully to this new eating plan. Frequent headaches disappeared. I was having more energy. Other body aches and pains went away AND the thing I least expected – weight started to drop off.

Facing the possibility of surgery and the reality of what I would have to do post-surgery was exactly the thing I needed to get me back on track. I have elected to not do the surgery. 

Normally, I would wait before even writing a blog like this (given my track record and abysmal past failures, it would be my way of saving face should I fail). But the truth is, whether I succeed or fail at losing weight doesn’t matter near as much as the decision to take better care of myself.

I am losing. But I’m not talking about weight. I am losing a lifestyle that has not been working for me. I am losing self-reliance and asking my wife for her help. I am losing dieting since what I’m engaged in is a new way of living and being in the world.

Do I have fears? You bet. I know I am always only one choice away from going back to the way things were. I totally relate to addicts because I am one.

But most of all I know, when I feel like a failure, that doesn’t impact the way God sees me. God has this amazing ability to see sin, not excuse it, but love anyway. He hangs out with the failed, the desperate and the most defeated.

If you beat yourself up all the time, saying to yourself things you would never say to another soul, then you have a grace deficiency. If you think you’re so bad off no one can love you, you have a grace deficiency. If you judge yourself based solely on your appearance, you have a grace deficiency. Thankfully, this misery-inducing disease has a cure! God’s extravagant grace is what heals it.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”  Lamentations 3.22-24 (The Message)