Saturday, June 23, 2007

Confessions of a weight watcher


It's really no shock to anybody who is a real friend to me that my weakness is food. Some people can claim that they are big boned. But when is the last time you saw a fat boned skeleton? Some people can claim they have a thyroid problem. Some people can say they have ballooned up because of anti-depressants or other drugs. Some people say it's in their genes. What do I have to say for myself? I'm an abuser at times, plain and simple. It is a result of stress, however it's MY response to stress, and not the stress's fault, it's mine. Because I have a choice as to how to handle it.

Anyone who is in relationship with me knows, I've been doing Weight Watchers for almost three years now. I am a WW member and will always be. Even if I stayed right at goal, I will never stop going because I know my weakness and this is just something I need to stay on track. Since joining WW, I have lost 30 or 40 pounds, depending on what day of the week or month it is.

This has been a difficult month as far as eating. I am 9 pounds away from final goal weight right now, and that might not seem like much, but to me it's everything because those 9 pounds scream "FAILURE" at me quite a bit. The last month I have played a foolish game of losing four pounds, gaining four pounds.

I can be right on program and stay there for quite a while and then if difficult times hit, I regress. This is because at times I am blinded to think that besides my relationship with God, it's my only recourse. I now know this to be untrue, but sometimes I still fall. As much as I want to be perfect, that status ever eludes me.

Many people wonder why there are so many people in the ministry who are overweight. People talk about these big fat pastors who have "pulpit bumpers". Well, I'll tell you why. I'll tell you the facts many others wouldn't dare to tell you. There are a zillion things on their minds that they can't talk to anybody about or it would most likely cost them their jobs. Their life. Their livelihood. Their calling. First there are the "confidential" things people tell them in the course of their daily work. They deal with people in the church (not just people out in the world) who are in terrible circumstances - not just illnesses, but sins -- some with horrible consequences. At any given time you find out that two of your members are having an affair, one just had an abortion, another has left their spouse, someone else has turned gay, another is having a baby by someone who isn't their spouse, yet still another is abusing their kid, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. You have preached the Word of God. You have called the people to holiness and a closer walk with God. Still, they have become entangled with these sins that have beset them. Just as your natural children have a free will, much to your chagrin, so do your spiritual ones. As a minister you are not only carrying the weight of your problems, but because you care so much for others, you feel the weight of theirs. (No matter how much I remind myself to "cast my cares"...it's hard not to feel broken for our people who are in such pain. As a spiritual mother or father, you feel that pain just like you would for one of your own natural children.)

So you know all this stuff and have it all secretly on your mind and that doesn't even include church politics! Oh, if it were only that easy that we only had to deal with people's private sins. But no, you have all this political stuff to deal with that you would just looooooooooooooove to expose to everybody in the church and lay all the cards on the table and thereby exonerate yourself from many completely unfair situations, but...ethics dictate that you can't. So when you deal with staff issues, leadership issues, "controller in the church" issues, antagonists, etc., you just have to discuss it with your spouse and keep trudging on. But that's the least of your worries. Because at any given time on top of that, if your life isn't going just peachy, you feel you can't share that, at least not without criticism or developing lack of respect. If you have a fight in your marriage, your kids are having a rebellious week, your finances hit the wall due to a bill you didn't expect, etc. etc. you lump all that on top of the other things you keep under wraps, so as to keep your house of cards standing tall. Sometimes you make time to call a pastor-friend and meet for coffee and talk but most weeks the truth is, you work at least 50-60 hours (more at holidays) and so do they. Time is in short supply and you are also on the merry go round of dealing with the above.

You can't drink alcohol.

You can't do drugs.

You can't spill your guts about all this stuff.

Or you'd lose your ministry.

So what is the "safest" course of action? You stop by Publix on the way home from church. Not only are all the things above bothering you but when you were at church service you were so angry because some of the people who had responsibilities let the ball drop. So much went wrong. But you had to act like everything was alright. You can't go ballistic and say what you want to...because - YOU GUESSED IT...your job...ministry...calling...livelihood...not to mention the respect factor - is once again at stake. So - here you are at Publix in the frozen food aisle.

You pick up a half gallon of Rocky Road, a bag of Ruffles potato chips, brownies at the bakery, add a dozen donuts in the cart, and then to pacify your guilty side you throw in a bag of fresh broccoli for dinner the next night. You then go home, proceed to open the bag of Ruffles and the carton of Rocky Road and you eat it until you feel better while you watch a movie on Lifetime about somebody else with huge problems. This takes you out of the world you are currently in to somebody else's world that is worse than yours. All this would seem perfectly fine except the next day you get on the scale and discover you are now two pounds more than you were the previous day and when you get your clothes out for work the next day you discover you can't button the pants that you wore just last week.

My first weight watcher leader, Ginger, used to say to us, "Just remember, you can eat all you want in private, but be assurred - it will show up in public!"

The above has been the ongoing saga of my life for years. There have been times I have ventured out and instead of eating, decided to be honest and share the pressures of my life with a friend. Doing that in the church almost got me annihalated by somebody who really betrayed me years ago in the church. I quickly saw that was no solution. Therefore the reason I became very careful. Sharing with other pastors is a good thing - if I only make the time. (Which I do more often now - I see it as something on my schedule that is as important as message preparation or planning an outreach because I can then do ministry sanely. Well, at least mostly sane.) But many times I haven't stopped to pray more when the pressure hits, or call a pastor friend, or an incredibly loyal person in the church. (I've discovered later that there are possibilities in the church when you are careful and wait a long time to watch someone over time and test their loyalty).

In the times I haven't made the right choice, I have found myself just stuffing. I would get mad at someone and because I couldn't unload on them like I wanted to, or even simply just tell them I was upset. I would instead secretly say, "I'll fix you!" and go home and munch down an entire bag of potato chips. One time when dealing with a difficult church politic situation, I stayed home for three days in a row and did nothing but cry and eat. Finally I figured out, the potato chips were not hurting the people I was upset with at all - they were just making me bigger and more miserable than before about the situation. I was only hurting myself.

These past few weeks have been disappointing for me with my car and some other stuff. And I have to admit, I have more often decided to eat potato chips (thought not a whole bag, just an extra serving), and turned to comforting things like fried chicken and regular cokes, and all that. For the moment (and I stress "the moment"), it felt good.

My current weight watcher leader, Clara, often says, "Every behavior has a positive intention." That really affected me when she said that. Her point is - when you abuse food or anything else, you aren't looking to hurt yourself, you simply want relief. You want to get rid of the loneliness, so you eat a hot fudge sundae. For a moment it soothed you but about 30 minutes later you feel horrible. If you picked up the phone and called a friend, you would have accomplished the same soothing, only it would have been real and lasted longer. You were craving companionship but a bowl of ice cream doesn't have that power.

Others eat because the food doesn't talk back or disappoint us at the time. We see it as our friend, especially when someone has betrayed us. We know the ice cream is going to feel good going down and it's not going to say hurtful words, or lie. But again, half an hour later there we are feeling completely empty again.

I realize the answer is a stronger prayer life and time with God - which is the only thing that fills any of us up. My problem is, even though I am a pastor, I can't pray 24/7, nor read God's Word 24/7. I have a devotional life, however I still have to live in the real world and handle all of the above "real life issues". I wish it were as easy as having prayer and the Word as my life to the exclusion of all else. I'd love nothing more. But as soon as I start to do that, one of my kids scream that the dog has gotten loose or somebody from the church is one the phone. What it boils down to is acting on the principles in the Word and what God has spoken to me in times of prayer rather than the old, familiar, ineffective methods I used for so long - and still sometimes use when I lapse. One good thing - the lapses get further and further apart. As Clara says, "PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION." This journey is harder for those of us who also struggle with being perfectionists because we see it as all or nothing. When we have a lapse, sometimes we quit because we feel, "what's the use - I'm not perfect in my striving to do this now...I've failed."

For all those reading this who also struggle with this, I want to share with you some of the most powerful sayings and things I've learned from my leaders in Weight Watchers:

"Never failure, only feedback."

"PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION."

"If you bite it, write it."

"You can eat all you want in private, but rest assurred it will show up in public!"

"Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."

"Just ten pounds of weight loss takes 30 pounds of pressure off your knees."

"Every behavior has a positive intention."

"Don't use food to stay awake!"

"Move more, eat wisely."

"One of the most common positive intentions behind emotional eating is trying to avoid or put off dealing with uncomfortable feelings."

"FEEL the feeling, don't FEED it."

"Eat more raw than cooked...more plants than animals."

"Stand in line with thin people at a buffet/reception. Take what they take."

Ask yourself, "Is food used to do something I don't want to do?"

FAMOUS LAST WORDS: "I'll do it on my own."

Get rid of all your "in case of" clothes.

Lethal Logic: "I don't want to hurt people's feelings..." and "It's not right to waste food..." and "I deserve it..." and......"Just one's not going to hurt..."

To deal with a craving:

1) Acknowlege it.

2) Avoid self judgments.

3) Remain calm.

4) Consider the consequences.

5) Step into action - and follow WW guidelines.

6) Ask what the craving implies.

"Stop breaking self-promises." Example: "I'll put myself on the list and exercise today..." "I'll start taking care of myself..." "I'm worth investing in myself, so I'm going to start..."

"There is always a better choice available. Take it."

HALT - when you want to overeat! You HALT when you are Hurting, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

And my favorite - told to me by my first leader............


"I am a treasure, waiting to be found."

I hope these words of truth help anyone reading this who also struggles. As you can see, Weight Watchers is not all about how many calories we eat, or choosing dry bland chicken breast to eat every day. It's more about WHY we do what we do, and how to break the cycle.

Do we face serious issues in our lives? Without a doubt. But there is a better way to handle those issues than many of us have chosen. I used to think that because my problems in life were real, and not imagined (mainly the stresses of pastoring) that it somehow justified my soothing myself with food. I finally realized that no matter how "real" the pressures in my life, they didn't justify abuse to my body. In my case, I am choosing as a lifelong journey to take the principles in God's Word and fuse them with positive lessons learned in Weight Watchers and walk this path for life no matter how many times I fall. The past few weeks have been hard. I confess to you - I've done way too many potato chips and tried in vain to feel better. I haven't experienced a breakthrough. All that has happened is that I can't wear my favorite pair of Levi's. What a waste. I fall. But I will always, always get back up again. And so can you my friend.

You are a treasure waiting to be found. Make the right choice!

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