For the first time, ever, I stepped on the scale on New Year’s Day and saw a number I should have been happy with. Thanks to a half-hearted go at the Virgin Diet and a bad case of the flu, my annual January weigh-in was atypical. Almost ten pounds were gone.
Yet, I’ll be honest. It didn’t feel awesome. In fact, it didn’t really feel that different than any of those other years where I got the scale, looked down, and resolved how much better life would be if that number were lower. Instead, it was pretty much the same. I stood there wondering if that number was still too high to make me happy.
Yes. I know I have a problem. But, not the one you think. It’s an affection problem.
Last month thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people resolved to lose weight. For most, this is a worthwhile goal. Yet, by now, many (if not most) of those who resolved to “finally do it” this time have given up. Why? Are they weak willed? Choose the wrong diet? Do they just have too many obstacles to overcome?
No. I think it’s because they haven’t found a higher affection.
I recently watched Dr. Oz tell a Christian audience the secret to sustainable weight loss. His answer: You have to start thinking about yourself. Put “you” first.
And, as I think about friends who have had weight loss success and my own struggles in this arena, I realized: He’s right (in part). You can and will lose weight if you decide that you (your health or your “quality” of life) are more important than food.
Why does it work? Because for many that struggle with our weight– food is an idol. (I’ve written about modern day idols here if you are picturing a buddha statue and this makes no sense to you.) It’s hard to give up our idols because we think they make us happy. We think they bring us comfort and security.
So here is how changing your affection (what your heart loves) works: If you can replace your idol (food) with a higher affection (something you love more), say a love for oneself, then you can drop those pounds.
Practically, this is when you hear people say they can look at that plate of brownies and think, “No, I love myself (and my new skinny jeans) too much to eat you.”
You say no to your food idol, and yes to your new idol: a thinner you.
But, please don’t stop reading here.
There’s just one (HUGE) problem with this weight-loss strategy. Though arguably effective for a positive change in your body, becoming your own idol is destructive to the person who does it, to their relationships, and to every other aspect of their life.
It’s almost cliche, it happens so often. You see someone who has lost a significant amount of weight and what follows? Is everything else in their lives suddenly better now that they look awesome? Rarely. They have a hard time relating to old friends (though they make new ones who share their new affection). Their spouse can’t seem to make them “feel good” like they used to. Their relationships change. Everyone else is to blame.
So, then how DO you lose weight without becoming your own idol?
I think you need an even higher, (much) better, affection. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the answer.
A Scottish theologian by the name of Thomas Chalmers preached on “the expulsive power of a higher affection” in the early 1800s. The gist of what he wanted people to understand is that it’s really difficult to stay on a diet (abstain from “sin”) if you only think about how “bad” it is to break the rules. For example, simply meditating on how bad high fructose corn syrup is for your body is not enough motivation to keep you away from Oreos. (You can insert pornography, lying, drinking, drugs, gambling, or just about any struggle you have in that sentence to get the full impact of what he was saying.) Chalmers preached that we need a greater power, a greater affection, in order to get rid of (or expel) the sinful behavior. (Yes, overeating is a sin called gluttony and mentioned more than many other sins in the Bible.)
Chalmers encouraged people to take their misplaced affections (like a love for too much food) and replace them with the far greater power of the affection of the gospel: the love of Jesus Christ.
Bottom line: If you want to lose weight in the healthiest way– you have to work out. But, not just in the gym. You have to work out love. When we can embrace how much love God demonstrated for us by giving up his son in our place…when we can fully receive that love…then, we can turn our affections away from what distracts us, what tempts us, and towards Him who first loved us.
He is the answer to all of our addictions not because he can help us have better willpower (though he can), but because his love is so big it can fill our heart so we have no room for any of our previous loves (like brownies). His love — if we can grasp it — leaves no room for anything inferior.
If you want to lose weight, and have failed…again…and again… Don’t despair! Rather, pray that God will give you a new affection: one for him that is so great that it dominates your heart. I believe you’ll find, in that place of crying out to Him, that he will be faithful to help you change your body as you change your heart.
“Therefore, it is not enough to hold out to your people the mirror of their own imperfections. It is not enough to come forth with a demonstration of the effanecent character of their enjoyments, or to speak to their consciences of their follies. Rather, make every legitimate method of finding access to their hearts for the love of him who is greater than the world.” Thomas Chalmers
“For God so loved ithe world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16