Saturday, January 12, 2008

Weight Loss as a Parable for Spiritual Transformation

It often strikes me that weight loss is a great parable for spiritual transformation. There are three types of people who try to lose weight, and these parallel the ways we try to deal with sin:

1. Fad Dieter
These are the people who want a quick fix, they don't want to change their habits, and who see minimal change as a result. They want a miracle fix, that will help them lose lots of weight really really quickly. They really love weight loss products/plans that promise that they can continue to eat everything they are currently eating, and that they will still end up a size 8. Most usually this approach does not work. It is psychologically comforting, however, because if you are taking some "miracle weight loss pills" you can make the excuse that you "are trying", despair and return to your old ways with the comfort that it's not as though you didn't try, it's just that it's too hard.

2. Starvation Protest Dieter
The starvation dieter decides that it isn't really their fault that they are overweight, it's the food's fault. As a result, war is declared against all food. All food is evil, it is the enemy and must be stopped at all costs. They either refuse to eat at all, or go the way of the bulimic. This results in massive weight loss, but not only does fat get broken down, so does muscle. In time they become emaciated and die.

3. Change-in-Lifestyle Dieter
The dieters that have the most success are those that understand that food is NOT evil, food is not the problem. The problem lies in their relationship TO food. They simply over-indulge in something that is by nature GOOD. They seek to change their lifestyle so that their relationship with food and exercise is a healthy one. They seek advice from doctors and other health experts. They organise a support group, so that they are encouraged to keep going, particularly when things get difficult. They do what their personal trainer tells them to do even when it hurts or doesn't make sense. Instead of worrying about what they SHOULDN'T eat, they make sure that they ARE eating the right things. They don't buy problem foods, they buy lots of fresh fruit and veg. Once they've got the 5 veg, 2 fruit, meat, legumes etc etc thing down, there is less room for the higher fat foods. Over time they begin to enjoy more and more healthy food, and not having the higher fat foods all the time becomes less of an issue. Because life is meant to be fun, they do have the occasional slice of cake or tim-tam, but because they are now not eating them constantly, the effect on their waist line is negligle or non-existant, and they do not desire to eat more than a healthy portion.

I think weight loss illustrates the following spiritual transformation principles:

  • Don't look for the latest fad or instant fix. Such change is unsustainable.
  • Don't look for the "New Idea" / "Woman's Day" solution. Such solutions are unrealistic.
  • Don't go on a starvation diet, cutting everything good out of life for fear that you may become corrupted by it. John 10:10, we are called to abundant life.
  • Focus on what you SHOULD be eating rather than what you SHOULDN'T. If you fill up on "The Bread of Life" you won't have room for unhealthy "spiritual foods".
  • Don't buy the "chocolate", if it isn't in the house, you can't eat it. Control the things you allow into your life that you know will later be a temptation. Win the battle at the "supermarket".
  • Don't try to do it on your own, get help from 'experts' like mature Christians, elders, pastors etc. Have a support group in place, people who will remind you of God's grace, and support you in prayer.
  • Follow your personal trainer's (Holy Spirit) instructions
  • Don't kick yourself if you have the occasional tim-tam, God's grace is sufficient, get up have another go.
  • Don't believe labels about yourself that define you in terms of your problem. You are not "Fat" or "a Loser" or "weak" because you struggle. Those labels are not from God. He labels you as "chosen", "redeemed", "accepted", "loved", "son/daughter of the King".

God bless,

No comments: