Monday, June 27, 2016

Another Fresh Start

I got the idea to start this blog when I was doing The Daniel Fast a few weeks ago. It was then that when I was praying for clarity about the ways God wanted me to use my gifts in life that He said the first thing I should do is share with other people how He helped me. If you know me or even have me as a social media "friend," you already know that I claim a great love of food....a love that was TOO great because I became a chronic stress eater. In my recent blog posts, I said that I had been able to step down off medications for depression, but sometime between the time I got on them and the time I stopped using them, I had managed to place 30 pounds of the 50 I had lost before back on my body.

During my last two years working as a fitness coach, I tried to rid myself of stress eating but every so often I would go back to it, and as we age, the fact is one weekend of terrible eating can undo a whole month of hard work to lose some weight. So I have always felt my tendency towards emotional eating has been the reason I never made my final goal. I felt the need to try the Daniel Fast again, and not wait for the time when it was convenient. That was partly because of the urgency I felt to hear from God about so many of my prayers, and partly because I wanted to see if I could finally flip the switch in my brain about my on again off again emotional eating. Because you know something? I have learned that when we are addicted to food, especially those that contain sugar or white flour or artificial preservatives, it is not all our fault! Do you know that sugar works just like a drug in the brain? It provokes the same response and leaves the brain looking for more and more sugar so it can get the same "high." That is where we are left when we continue to eat it. And for me, it wasn't just that anymore, because I felt that I had broken that sugar addiction during the Made to Crave Bible study I did with my challengers before Easter this year. After I resumed allowing myself a little of it, I found that most things just tasted too rich and I didn't want to eat it anymore. Yet, when emotions were taking over in me or I had a hard day, I made the same old excuses and ate chips that were only in the house for my son. Lots of them. Yikes! I guess he could get his chip obsession from me! 

When I first wrote about the fast, I was bubbling over with everything that God had done with me during that three weeks, and I never did share about the hardest moments, which shockingly didn't actually involve chips or chocolate. No there were only two different occasions during this fast when I felt like my heart really hurt. As I shared before, I also gave up coffee as part of that experience, something I never thought I would be able to do. I miraculously got through my mornings all right without it, but it was the times when it was late afternoon, when I normally would have a cup for the boost I would be looking for after the day's activities that there were three different occasions during this fast that someone offered me free coffee. Free coffee that was not made by me, in the afternoon when I wanted a cup anyway. You just don't know how hard that was to say no. The other thing I learned about myself during this fast is how much I adore pizza. There was the one day we got to attend a Pittsburgh Pirates game with some students in my son's class and that was when the reality of how much I love pizza first became real to me. 

I had just passed up on all kinds of great food that was offered to us in our box that we were blessed with as a gift to our kids that day, and only ate what went along with my fast plan, which is basically vegan eating with no junk food allowed. Then we decided to take Lucas for a walk around the ball park. Of all the delicious smells around that place, the one that hit me like a brick was the pizza cooking over the flames in one of those brick ovens. That was painful. (FYI I felt it again when I took Lucas swimming at the pool and saw a kid on the deck eating a big floppy New York style slice!) 

But overall, the fast was such an amazing expeience and I felt so good after eating that way for 3 weeks that I almost hated to see it end. Then I had the opportunities for further reflection when it was over. I ate some things over the last two weeks that I just didn't enjoy as much as I did before and one day (this past Friday) I really over did it. I knew I would be starting over today so I rationalized that it was all right, and at least I was honest enough to share that with my Facebook friends. I felt so sick that evening and the next day. I was relieved to make it to Monday for my fresh start, with a great group of new challengers, and best of all, my husband! I believe God can and will help us make this the time we both stick to the plan. It's only 3 more weeks, since we are doing the 21 Day Fix programs together. (Extreme for me.) But I have a feeling after my most recent experience with giving things up that it will yield such positive rewards that we will want to stick it out longer. Actually, knowing the food addiction that I do have and the way my brain will be able to let go of the habit if I leave those trigger foods alone, I have already determined that I will wait until our vacation at the end of August to have any treats. The only real difference in the Daniel Fast and the 21 Day Fix Extreme way of eating is that animal products are allowed. I decided to go vegan for the first three days, as kind of a detox period, and during that time I will also avoid TV and spend a little more time in the Word and reading positive material because a good soul detox every so often is the most important kind. Then I will follow the plan accordingly with just a little more emphasis on plant based food because it turns out I like that most anyway. Except maybe for that cheesy pizza! 
But the most important thing that happened during my fast was when the scripture I needed came to me at the times I needed it most. When the enemy got into my thoughts and spoke about how unfair it was that I was not eating any of the delicious free food at the ball park, or that I couldn't have a hot dog on Memorial Day weekend, I came back at him with the truth. There is one little piece of the following passage that God gave me to use in the battle against the desire to overindulge. 

Matthew 6:25-27

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the 
body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; 
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and 
yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not 
much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you 
by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

I love these words from Jesus, about why we shouldn't worry about things in this life. But the part that stood out to me in a different way recently was how he asked, "Is not life more than food?" 
Well, yes, it certainly is. The day at the Pirates game was much more than free chicken wings, sandwiches, and beautiful layer cakes. It was more than even the afternoon coffee and the cheese pizza that had been cooked over the fire. It was family time, on a beautiful sunny day, where my son got to try something different. He was surrounded by staff from his school who genuinely love him and kids who were excited to see each other and experience the afternoon together. Holiday weekends and trips to the amusement park this summer are more than the food. They are about family togetherness, spending time with friends, and making memories. I won't remember what I ate years from now, but I will never forget the smiles of my child that were captured on camera to cherish for a lifetime, and I will always be able to look back and smile at how little it took to make him happy. Life is much more than food, And I am about to find out how much more I can get out of it by continuously eating the right things and none of the wrong ones. We would be happy to have others join us for just this three weeks! I can attest that when you work hard and allow God to be involved, a lot can happen in a short amount of time. (Not to mentione, these programs are effective!) Overcoming eating issues is hard, but from now on, I choose to remember the words of the One who makes all things possible. "Is not life more than food?" 

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