According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology (University of Scranton), losing weight is consistently the number one New Year’s Resolution that people make. I think this is a huge mistake. Why? Because it doesn’t work…
Statistically, fewer than half of the people resolving to lose weight will still be on track 6 months later…with the most drop-outs occurring on or before Valentine’s Day. Why does willing and hoping, and wishing, and resolving to lose weight rarely (if ever) lead to permanent life change?
Every year between the ages of 18 and 33 I had the same resolution list on December 31st. Number one was always “Lose (insert number) pounds.” Number two was something about working out more (to back up resolution number one of course). Number three about getting organized or working less. Number four about finding a new hobby or getting better at something. Number five was usually a shout out to God…like spend more time reading the Bible or praying.
This is how the list read. Every. Single. Year.
And, it never worked. Here’s why.
1. It’s the Wrong Order. I don’t know the extent of your weight battle—if you are stressing over those ten vanity pounds or if the doctor has told you to do something or disease is inevitable. But, having “lose weight” as your first resolution means that your focus is off. I found that when I was fixated most on my weight I had a difficult time changing it, permanently. And, even when I reached numbers that I thought would make me happy, it didn’t last. I still had a new goal I needed to reach the next year.
There is nothing wrong with desiring to lose weight in 2016. But, if it’s your first resolution, than I beg you to reconsider its order….especially if you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
When I finally won my battle with yo-yo dieting and obsession with the scale was when I re-prioritized weight loss on my to do list. I literally used to think about dieting and exercise around the clock. From the second I’d take a bite of breakfast, brunch, or brownie, my brain would begin plotting what diet or exercise program I could start… tomorrow, of course…
But, all of the tomorrows never came. Well, sometimes they did. But, then I’d fall again and have to find a new tomorrow. Years and years of being “good” and being “bad” resulted in some real self-inflicted emotional scars. And, never provided the answer to my weight problems.
2. It’s the Wrong Goal. I know from experience that a diet won’t solve the weight problem permanently. Diets—the inevitable bi-products of all New Year’s resolutions—end. And, even if you experience some success, it’s rarely permanent and lasting change. But, you already know this.
In fact, these are the words you don’t want to read today because you want it to work THIS TIME. You want to finally be free from dieting and thinking about dieting. You want your weight issues to go away and it seems like this could be your year to finally have the willpower to do it.
But, here’s the truth you need to know. It hasn’t failed in the past because you are weak. It hasn’t not worked…permanently…because you are no good, undisciplined, or a loser. This is not the truth. The truth is, it hasn’t worked before because it’s the wrong goal.
First answer the question: Why do you want to lose weight? Most people will give you a great answer about being healthier when this question is posed. But, when pushed a little further, I believe many (women especially) want to lose weight because they think it will make them happier. In some cases they’ll tell you, honestly, that they want to lose weight in order to be more attractive…but ultimately, it boils down to a cultural belief that attractive people have it better than everyone else.
Somewhere, somehow we decide that thin people are happier. They don’t have the same struggles that the overweight person does. Their lives are charmed. The person who struggles with the scale believes this lie. And, often feels that it’s not fair that some get to live free from weight challenges while they must restrain from ordering dessert, again. . .
But, it’s not true. I work at a gym. Many thin people have the same battles with their body as those who have a little more flesh to love. I know first hand that every 105 lb. woman feels just as guilty about missing her workout as the 205 lb. woman does. I know that the girl that everyone thinks has a “perfect body” worries just as much about being liked, finding love, and being truly accepted as the woman who shops in the plus size section.
This is why weight loss is the wrong goal. Weight loss won’t make you happy. Just like finding a man or winning the lottery…losing weight won’t solve all your problems and lead to eternal joy.
Granted, some have found weight loss success in turning their focus on themselves. This is the most common “Biggest Loser” scenario. But, I don’t think this is the right answer for someone who follows Jesus. Increased self focus, or self esteem, is never mentioned in the Bible in a positive light…it’s really more of a humanistic concept than a Christian one…
3. It’s the Wrong Savior. Weight loss won’t save you. But, there is a savior who knows your jeans size…who knows how guilty you feel about finishing off all the kids’ Christmas cookies…who knows what candy you have hidden in your pantry…who knows what you eat when no one else can see… He knows it all and he still loves you. He loves you like crazy.
I used to hide wrappers in the trashcan so no one would see what I ate. (I know, someone call the mental hospital.) But, it’s true. I thought that somehow if no one knew what I consumed I wouldn’t feel condemned for consuming it.
Those of us who overeat have a lot in common with alcoholics and other substance abusers. We feel shame. We feel guilt. We feel like failures when we break another diet or finish off the package of Oreos.
And, just like in the case of any other substance abuser…being free of the substance isn’t where salvation is found. Even if you lose the 30, 40, 50 pounds…you will never be free of food. It will still be there telling you that you need it…you want it…you love it… Food will tell you that it will make you happy. Cure your loneliness. Make up for your hurt. Fix your relationship.
But it won’t. Food doesn’t do that. It doesn’t save you.
There is a savior who will though. He died to take your shame and guilt and replace it with–get this–complete and unwavering acceptance. Acceptance for you just as you are, right now. Not, ten pounds from now. Not 100 pounds from now. Today.
The solution to my weight problem was found in finding my true savior. When I was finally able to find freedom and joy in my savior, my resolutions list changed…and so did my dress size. His amazing love IS transformational. I had to repent of gluttony of course…of idolatry too (thinking food or being thin would make me happy was putting something in a place that should be reserved only for God). But, the Gospel message when truly internalized and believed has a power to change you like no diet or exercise gizmo ever could.
Make finding your savior your first resolution. Make getting to know him better, understanding his Gospel and grasping how much he loves and accepts you. Make that your second and third resolutions.
Put weight loss in there as an after thought…
Dr. Timothy Keller frequently quotes a famous sermon by Dr. Thomas Chalmers called, “the expulsive power of a greater affection.” The premise, in my paraphrase and to apply to this post, is basically when you find a great new love you forget about your old love (food). (If you have ever physically fallen in love you probably remember a time period where you felt like you could “survive” on the love you felt and where chocolate and other comfort foods were entirely superfluous.)
I believe this works. If you’ll set your focus on He who loves you beyond your comprehension and allow His love for you to radically change your heart. I think He’ll help you get healthier physically as well. As you learn to turn to him for your comfort, for your support, for company, for love…it will help change the digital readout between your feet.