The Fruit of Self-Control & Eating

The other day a friend (and fellow dietitian) gave me the book, “The Weight of Grace” by Paula Neil Coleman. She told me that it was one of the only books she’s read that truly aligns with the principles of intuitive eating and God’s Word. After reading a few pages, I felt like I’d already pulled out a million nuggets of truth to share with you guys. But there was one thing the author said that really stuck out to me. She said that the discipline of dieting is not the same thing as self-control. Of course, I knew this in my heart, especially with all the intuitive eating work I do and research I’ve found to support it, but still, up until this time I was struggling to be able to explain the concept of self-control as it relates to our eating, in a grace fueled way. This post is my attempt to do just that, but likely not in the same way you've heard it before.

The Self-Control Conundrum

You see, for a lot of people, not being able to stick to a diet or clean eating regimen leaves us feeling like we have zero self-control. But if we truly believe God’s word, we know this can’t be the case. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. And again, in Galatians 5:22-23 Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The moment we believe in Jesus Christ for our righteousness, the bible says we are a new creation on the inside, filled with the Spirit of God, which among other things, gives us self-control.

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So why doesn’t this gift of self-control make us able to follow a diet plan?

Let’s look at the definition of the greek word “sōphronismou”, which is translated to self-control in 2 Timothey 1:7. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon the word means an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control. Likewise further translations of the verse use sound mind and wise discretion in place of self-control.

Soundness of Mind & Intuitive Eating

Soundness of mind legally means to have the capacity to think, reason, and understand for oneself. Every person has inside of them a consciousness or intuition which allows them to do these things. Yet as Christians, we are told that we have a supernatural ability from the Holy Spirit to think, reason and understand for ourselves things that are not understood by the rest of the world, “for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16”). So understand this: obsessing over a diet / rules for eating that come from outside ourselves and outside God’s word is not an expression of soundness of mind or wise discretion, it’s simply following the world’s rules in attempt to get something we already have through Christ, whether it’s health and healing, validation, worth or love.

On the contrary, when don't look to the world for answers but to the Holy Spirit within us who has the ability to overwhelmingly shape our intuition and who gives us “wise-discretion”, we are able to make nourishing decisions for food that will meet our own individual needs. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:13). Listening to him and to the physical cues he’s designed in our bodies when it comes to what and how much to eat will lead only to good.

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Our natural inclination is to nourish our bodies, not harm them through overeating or eating so called “bad for us” foods. Yet most people are convinced that if left to follow their own intuition they would continually cause harm to their health. The truth is you can trust your body and the spirit within to guide your eating. “For no one hates his own body, but feeds it and cares for it,” (Ephesians 5:29). Self-control then is just the power to choose what is best for us, to say no to sinful/harmful things. But my friend, feeding your body is NOT sinful, and breaking somebody else’s diet rules isn’t a lack of self-control. The word of God does not condemn you for eating any food and neither should you. The new testament makes clear that all things created by God are good and nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4).

Maybe it’s a harmful mindset on food, a lack of understanding of our true value and worth in Christ, or an incomplete knowledge of His love for us that drives us to diet or worry about eating a certain way. In any case dieting is not what we need, so why would we expect God’s spirit of self-control to help us with dieting, when it just might be a path to destruction?

While I agree that overeating any food can be harmful, I believe that if we will stop following food laws & worrying over what to eat and instead listen to our intuition, to the Spirit’s leading, we’ll leave space for knowing when to eat and when to stop. We’ll listen and understand when our hunger is physical or emotional and how best to satisfy it.

Transformation comes with new thoughts

It’s time to have a NEW THOUGHT about feeding and caring for our bodies. One that is rooted in truth and not the patterns of the world. New thoughts come through hearing the truth of the Word of God. Transformation comes from believing the truth and putting it into practice.

If you’ve felt out of control, guilty, or ashamed about your eating and your body and you’re ready to find a new way of eating, one that nourishes both soul and body, one that’s rooted in the truth of God’s word, please join us for the grace-fueled eating e-course launching this Friday! The introductory course will only be available for the first 50 people. To reserve your spot, visit the e-course page and enter your email.

As always if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Until next time, happy fueling :) 

Beating Winter Body Image Blues

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The week of Thanksgiving is when the chaos typically starts. Families in town, holiday get-togethers to attend, household chores and every day duties that refuse to be put on hold, and then someone inevitably gets a cold and you get it too. Suddenly the comfortable routine you set in the early fall months has gone right out the window. You look back and it’s been 3 weeks and you aren’t sure what you’ve actually accomplished.  Now it seems like the winter blues are knocking at the door just waiting to take up residence in your home until spring.

A part from the joy of the holidays, winter can be a kind of depressing time if you let it. The weather is cold and daylight is short. The stress of the holidays can run high and take a toll on your immunity. Colds, flus and other illnesses threaten to take all your time and energy. All of these things, combined with the very real physiological effects of cold weather and lack of sunlight, can contribute to low mood and even depression. In addition and related to this, body image is at an all time low for many people.

Even if you manage to make peace with food during the holidays, if you are able to enjoy all foods in moderation, honor your hunger and respect your fullness; If you’ve worked on replacing negative thoughts that say you’re good for eating one way and bad for eating another, winter time still puts you at risk for poor body image. And poor body image puts you at risk of falling for a quick-fix diet come January and a cycle of weight loss, gain, guilt and shame come February.  I’m guessing these things are not on your Christmas list…

But why is our body image so low in the winter months?? Aside from the increased rates of low mood and depression partially attributable to the lack of sunlight, we also have to contend with paler skin, natural weight fluctuations, and decreased physical activity.  Feeling a little down just reading this? Don’t worry, you can totally beat the winter body image blues, and I’ve got some tips on how below. But first, let’s address a couple of fallacies.

Fallacy # 1: People gain 7-10 lbs over the holidays

No. This is a random statistic the media came up with to scare people towards diets and weight loss products. Research published in the New England Journal of medicine looked at weight gain in America from before Thanksgiving until after the New Year (into March). The research actually found that the average weight gain was less than 1 lb.  So let’s just all take a deep breath and take that into perspective.

Fallacy # 2: Winter weight gain is unhealthy and you will keep the weight gained, forever.

Geeze people, let’s be a little more dramatic.  Okay but really, weight fluctuations are totally normal during the wintertime. According to a study done at Maastricht University in the Netherlands our metabolism increases during the colder months making us hungrier. Putting on a little weight or eating a little more is our body's way of making sure we have enough energy, considering it takes more energy to keep us warm. This doesn’t mean eat until you are stuffed because “Aubrey told me I use more energy in the winter”, no. It means continue eating when you are hungry and stopping when full – you can trust your appetite.

We’ve already mentioned the increased rate of colds/flus/yucky bugs during the winter months. Let’s not let the stress/fear of weight changes drag our immune system down.  Just rest and continue on your intuitive eating journey, trust the process.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that covered, what can we do to protect/improve our body image during the winter months? Here are 10 tips for just that:

10 Ways to Beat the Winter Body Image Blues

1. Buy winter clothes that fit and flatter you. Choose clothes that work for your body type and that you feel comfortable in right now. Beyond that, choose colors that flatter your skin tone (this is especially important in our ‘pastier’ months).

2. If you really don’t like being pale – try a sunless tanner. Here’ a list of 10 under $20 . You could also get a spray tan.

3. While we’re on the topic of sunlight, try to get some when you can, especially earlier in the day, but really whenever possible! Try going outside for a brisk walk during lunch for a double-punch of movement and vitamin D-soaked-rays.

4. About vitamin D – you knew I’d get there. You may consider taking a vitamin D supplement, especially if your levels are low. As I alluded to above, less sunshine means lower vitamin D levels and lower vitamin D may contribute to winter blues. I get mine from Trader Joes.

5.  Get up each morning, get dressed, and do your hair and/or makeup. There is truth to the saying “dress for success”.  Dressing up and just overall personal hygiene are surefire ways to make you feel better in your skin.

6. On that topic, for the ladies, try painting your nails. I don’t know why, but sometimes a little color on my fingernails makes me feel like a million bucks.

7.  Find an at-home workout video or program you love. I’ve mentioned these before, but I love Fitness Blender and Yoga with Adrienne (both free programs). You can also do paid programs as well (like beach body on demand and others, ask around). At-home workout videos are great to get you moving and feeling better in the wintertime. It can be hard to get outside and/or go to the gym in the dark and cold.

8. Try your hand at warm, nourishing soup and crockpot recipes. Warm foods are comforting and satisfying for the body and soul :) . Plus, learning how to prepare new recipes (or any new skill) increases self-confidence!

9. Take advantage of the increased in-doors time in the evenings to read a book, journal, start a Pinterest project, or just sip some warm tea and chat. The idea is to get your focus off of your body and onto new things, ideas and others.

10. Finally, go on coffee and lunch dates with friends or start a dinner club where you alternate host houses. Remember that other people are struggling with the winter blues too. Helping others is at the heart of getting our focus off of our body!

I'm interested to hear from you guys. How do you beat the winter body image blues??