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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Intermittent Fasting is Liberating While Dieting Creates Victims

Through out my life I’ve struggled to lose weight, but looking back I see weight loss wasn’t my problem.  It was body image.

Look at me on my wedding day.  

Sorry, I just had to throw this one in for fun!

But, seriously, should this beautiful bride be worried about how fat she is?

But I was.  Although beautiful and meaningful, much of my wedding day was dominated by negative thoughts in my mind about my body and appearance.

Once I started having children, I really did need to lose weight but the negative thoughts in my mind, the “you can’t do it” or “start tomorrow” made it impossible to lose weight permanently.  Through the years, I developed a food addiction where I needed to eat what I wanted, when I wanted or I wasn’t happy.

In 2010, after I had my fifth child.

I remember years early staring in the mirror, shocked by my appearance.  I said to my loving husband, “The fat girl I see in the mirror is not the real me.  The girl I see in my mind is stuck behind all the fat.  Why can’t I get her to come out?’ 

Throughout my life, dieting had been a game for losers. I would pity myself, convinced going without certain foods was too hard; as if something awful was really happening to me. 

Diets made me self-absorbed.

Dieting was an ungrateful delusion.  “Poor me, I have to eat salad and sweet potatoes and asparagus when what I really want is cookie dough.” 

What was that?  There wasn’t a single thing about that situation that should have made me feel sorry for myself.  My body was screaming for healthy food, but my emotional cravings were begging to be fed too.  Wrapped up in pride and personal sabotage, my emotional cravings convinced me I was only in charge if I gave into every impulse at any time. “That’s freedom, that’s the dream,” my self-absorbed self said. 

When did I learn I could only be happy with no restrictions ever?  That certainly wasn’t God’s plan.  He gave commandments to keep His children safe.  What about food commandments?  Food had become my false idol.  The results were my body carrying 60 extra pounds.   My poor meager inability to solve this problem made me a victim. 

As a victim I had a “get out of jail free” card.

I had every justifiable excuse in the book.  It was Christmas, it was my birthday, we were on vacation, other people ate what they wanted, my metabolism was off, I’d just had a baby and on and on and on. 

Procrastination sped up time.  I felt constantly rushed and irritable. 

I was putting off the inevitable, forcing myself to live outside today and into tomorrow.  As the victim I lost hope, but what if the victim and the perpetrator were the same person?  We see this scenario manifest itself all the time in self-defeating behavior.  That was me, victim and perpetrator; hence the inner dialogue I couldn’t seem to escape.  If my perverted thinking wasn’t from God, where did it from?  What was the root of fear, doubt and delusion?  It certainly couldn’t grow from faith and love when I decided to study the 40-day fast of Jesus Christ. 

After Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness to fast and prepare for His mission.  Alone, he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.  

I thought about the “alone-ness” of fasting as it could be a very lonely experience.  At times I could feel the world spinning and moving around me, yet I wasn’t participating.  Without the tastes of the world on my tongue, I felt on the sidelines watching the game.  Without food, much of the goodness of the earth could not be experienced.  On the other hand, fasting allowed the understanding of “being in the world but not of the world.”  At times, I felt elevated.  The normal cares of my life – being upset over meaningless things seemed silly to what others were experiencing. Those who went without food were present in my mind. No longer did I feel impulses to self-indulge and satisfy my every desire when those around me were suffering.  Being lonely also allowed for self-revelation.  Near the end of his fast, Satan came to tempt Jesus.  The Savior’s body was weak but his spirit was mighty.  

The first thing Satan tempted Jesus to do was turn stones into bread.  Satan was a fool for thinking something so temporal could remotely tempt Christ.  Jesus said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the word of God.”  When the spirit carried Jesus to the top of the temple, Satan tempted Jesus to jump and call on the angels of heaven to catch him.  Jesus told Satan not to tempt the Son of God.  Jesus was a master of the fast, He knew who He was but Satan tried again to tempt him.  When Jesus was a top a mountain overlooking all the lands and people of the earth Satan tried to convince Jesus to worship him by promising Him all the power of the world.  Really, did Satan think Jesus would even care about what he had to offer?  Satan was a liar.  I considered the lies Satan had feed me.  He had controlled me for too long.  Just as Jesus had showed, Satan could have no power over me unless I believed him; unless I allowed it.

During my 30-day fast, I learned to break the chains of deception I’d convinced myself were true.  I could do this.  I could have food commandments and limit what I put in my body.  I was in control.  God had made my body perfect and I needed to be grateful for it. 

After 30 days of fasting, I lost 12 pounds.  

I have now been practicing intermittent fasting for 50 days and will not weigh myself again until my next 30-day milestone.  I skip breakfast and lunch and eat dinner at 4:00pm.  I drink plenty of fluids too and have no food restrictions after my fast.  More important than my weight-loss, I marvel at the things I’ve learned about myself, food and my relationship with God.  I pray for those in need and turn to God for help and instruction.  I’ve never felt more like a daddy’s girl.  Truly, we are children of God and I know it like I’ve never understood before. 

How did I learn to stop shaming food?
How did I survive the hunger?
Did I incorporate exercise?
How is fasting not only physical, but spiritual?
How long do I plan to fast?

These, and more are topics I will answer in the upcoming blog posts.  Writing about this experience has been amazing.  I am currently seeking a publisher for my memoir:

Starving Girl – a perpetual dieter’s 30-day experience with the miracle of intermittent fasting and the unorthodox answers she received about overcoming food addiction.

Linking up to:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How Hunger Became my Friend and Teacher

Lessons on Intermittent Fasting

Lesson 1) Be prepared to face hunger and become friends

The type of intermittent fasting I experienced required going without food between the hours of 10pm to 4pm.  During this 18-hour fast, I learned much about hunger.  

Let me tell you, hunger messes with you.  Its persistence forces you front and center.  First, hunger taps lightly on your window and although you know it’s there, it can be ignored.  A while later it starts yelling when suddenly its steel-toed boot kicks the door.  The walls of your home shake and once again, hunger will go away but this time you have to yell at it through the peep hole.  “You’re not invited!” you scream, but it lurks in the window well like a thief, waiting to bust down the door the minute you least expect it.  Hunger forces the least imaginative person into a make-believe world of food where anything besides nothing tastes delicious. 

So, why would I put myself in a position to feel hungry?  As a Mormon, my Christian faith encouraged its members to fast the first Sunday of each month, a task I’d ignored for almost 20 years.  On January 3, 2016 God told me if I fasted it would change my life.  As someone with a food addiction, this seemed impossible.  Although I knew going without food would be difficult, I could see the beautiful parable of sacrifice.  Fasting was an offering of self-will, one of the few things I possessed to give to God.  Fasting was a willingness to go without so somebody else would be blessed.  The law of the fast involved praying for somebody in need while going two consecutive meals without food.  For me, that meant skipping breakfast and lunch.  Once the fast was complete, a financial offering was made to the church equivalent to the cost of the missed meals.  Most church members donated generously because their money went specifically to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and providing shelter to the homeless.  On January 3, my attempt at fasting was full of failure.  At one point I forgot all about my commitment and ate a piece of chocolate.  When I was hungry and thought I might faint, I drank grapefruit juice.  Several times I thought of giving up, but barely hung on.  I thought of my own needs and and the food I desired.  At dinner that night, I found some solace in my meager accomplishment.  If God could grade my fast, I would probably receive a D-; passing only because I had attempted to do my best.  Little did I know God had a surprise for me.  He wanted me to experience the same type of fast for 30 more days. 

(Several days before I started my fast.  When being photographed, I'd become very comfortable hiding behind my children.)

“No,” I said in my mind.  “You’ve got the wrong girl” and I dismissed the thought.  Was I gluten for punishment and making this idea up?  Was fasting for 30 days even healthy?  I’d been taught to keep the body fed, eating small meals throughout the day so the metabolism burned like a small camp fire.  Going without food seemed counterproductive and for me it flashed impossibility like a neon sign.  God couldn’t be serious, but again the persistent thought to fast for 30 days flooded my thoughts.  Once the idea settled a bit I wondered what God had in store for me?   I could see the poetic irony – overweight girl gives up food and learns to rely on God.  Like the Sunday fast, it was an enchanting parable for someone else to experience, but I couldn’t imagine it manifesting through me.  Still, I knew God well enough to recognize His voice, so with a willingness to try, I stumbled into my first day.  For 30 days I struggled, cursed, fought and eventually rejoiced in my fast, which I now know is called intermittent fasting.  What I didn’t realize, was hunger would soon become my friend and teacher.   

(A note my husband left for me during my 30-day fast.)

Hunger forced me to think outside myself.  Without hunger this opportunity would not have been possible.  Hunger was a mental game between my body and spirit.  Once my body realized it was not in control, my spirit was allowed to be in charge.  Like perspiration through the pores, I literally felt the dim light of my spirit shine through growing brighter and brighter with each day.  Released through hunger, my spirit soon began a journey of learning.  I understood my relationship with food, how it held me back and kept me in a constant state of low self-worth and procrastination.  Food; a sore spot for many women who struggled with body-image reminded me of Eve and how she was tempted by the fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Through deception, food could be a tool inflicting hurt and pain on women.  While fasting I constantly asked questions.  Why was obesity wide-spread?  Was over-eating and depression linked?  Why was body size related to self-worth?  Why had I turned to food after being sexually abused?  What type of example was I setting for my children?  Would my daughter struggle with the same issues?  I learned when every impulse and craving of the body was not satisfied, the spirit became stronger.  Such strength allowed me to not only conquer the pains of my past, but find purpose in them.  Fasting projected me towards what I could accomplish and what I was doing right in my life.  Self-discipline and gratitude rose out of ashes and through fasting, my best self became present. 

Because of the weight I’ve lost, I’m tempted to call fasting dieting but these two terms are counter opposites.  While dieting is an internal struggle of deprivation fasting is an outward expression of love and healing.  In other words, I wasn’t willing to give up my food addiction for myself, but I was willing to do it for someone I loved and could pray for.

Throughout the next few weeks, I will continue sharing tips and insights on intermittent fasting and what I learned.  If you feel someone will benefit from this information, please share this blog post with them. 

Read more about my experience by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Starving Girl - My 30 day experience with the miracle of intermittent fasting

On Sunday January 3, 2016 I did something I hadn’t done in nearly 20 years.  

I fasted.  

This may seem like a small task but for me it felt almost impossible.  In my church I’d been encouraged to fast once a month which involved skipping two meals.  I started my fast after dinner on Saturday night and I was to skip breakfast and lunch and could resume eating dinner on Sunday night.  Easy, right, but for most my life I’d had a horrible relationship with food.  I resented food and blamed it for many of my problems.  Since having my 6th baby, I was almost 80 pounds overweight, but that didn’t matter.  Food was my reward.  Food was my master and there was nothing I could do about it.  It controlled me on so many levels; emotionally, physically and without my ability to participate in a monthly religious fast, it controlled me spiritually.

Religious fasting is full of purpose and prayer.  My sister and brother were at perilous times in their lives and their health was of the upmost concern, so while fasting that Sunday, when I hungered, I would turn to God in prayer and ask for His blessing on them.  An amazing thing happened to me.  I forgot about my problems and focused on others.  I felt God’s love flow through me and decided having His influence in my life in such abundance was something I wanted again. So, I fasted the next day, skipping breakfast and lunch, only to have dinner that night.  I did this day after day, seeking out God’s love and purpose.  I had plenty of people in my life to fast for including my children and husband, my parents and siblings, even my enemies, so I did this again and again and again until I'd fasted for 30 days.

About 10 days into my fast, I was reading a PEOPLE magazine article called “Half Their Size” about a girl who'd lost over 100 pounds.  She contributed her success to healthy eating, exercise and intermittent fasting.  What was that?  I got busy and forgot all about it, but on day 14 of my fast, I decided to look up what intermittent fasting was.  I was blown away.  Cells healed, hormones balanced, brain creativity was higher and on and on when I read the best part; rapid weight-loss.  The research suggested a 16 hour fast with an 8 hour eating window (click here and here).  To my surprise, this was how I'd been fasting.  The only thing I didn't find from my study of intermittent fasting was how to incorporate prayer.  

It seemed the spiritual part of the fast was ignored while the practice of fasting was purely for the physical benefits.  

Funny thing was I'd continued fasting because the spiritual rewards were much more significant.  I was changing my life, healing my emotional wounds and felt inspired to be the person I knew God wanted me to be.

For 30 days, I wrote about my experience and now am currently seeking a publisher for my memoir: 

Starving Girl - My 30 day experience with the miracle of intermittent fasting.

I had gone through many titles while working on my memoir of fasting.  Because my ultimate journey was through Jesus Christ, I wanted a title that would honor Him. Christ-centered Eating quickly became the working title.  Through His example of fasting, my own mediocre attempt to fast was one of the greatest paths to finding true love for self, God and humanity. I felt impressed to fast on Sunday January 3, 2016, thinking it would be a one day thing. When I felt God wanted me to fast for 30 more days (going all day without food, only eating dinner at night), it seemed an impossible task.  He told me if I prayed every day I would be successful.  Day by day, I checked in with my self.  Was I really doing this?  Why was I putting myself through such torture? On day twelve I became so hungry I questioned what God was asking of me.  Hungry waves of anger hit like an emotional tsunami.  Oh, I was beyond hungry and without food to work as my emotional crutch, I had to feel everything.  Like dye to a blood test, anger crept into my body and colored me red.  I had spent years of life full of food; eating, consuming, rewarding, pitying, indulging, resenting and failing all through food.  I was fed up and considered titling the book Stuffed.  How many years had I been stuffed but unfulfilled?  On day 15 of my fast, the anger turned to determination and forced me to face my demons.  Like a raging boxer at the end of his match, I emotionally collapsed.  I had another round to fight and needed to mature.  Food couldn’t be my crutch anymore.  It was difficult but again, I knew fasting was what God wanted me to do so I forced myself open.  No longer could food be a shield to hide behind.   The hunger kept me present and motivated.  I was starving for more than food.  I was starving to love myself.  Boom, my new title became Starving.  Days and days of hunger; unfiltered and exposed hunger pulsed through me and I discovered food could never fill me up.  My strength had to come purely from God.  No more excuses, no more “I can’t do this,” or “I’ll start tomorrow.”  I had to live the laws of the universe that I knew to be true and when the God of the universe told me to pray everyday to Him, I prayed.  When He told me to fast, I fasted.  I’d been so stubborn; certain God would understand my inability to keep up with all He demanded of me.  I had been blessed with more than I ever noticed.  My life was stuffed with the richness of happiness and meaningful relationships, but with all the dysfunction of food addiction I couldn’t see it.  While fasting, my beating heart and growling stomach reminded me I was alive through Christ.  God had bestowed upon me gifts and without a daily relationship with Him, I couldn’t tap into them.  For 30 days the spiritual channel between heaven and earth opened in a way I never knew possible.  God knew I would find myself and He knew without food I would be desperate enough to turn to Him every single moment.  

Yes, God knew I would suffer and cry and fall apart.  He knew I would doubt and kick and scream, but He also knew I would search and hope and love.  I would feel His love.  He knew as He picked me up and put me back together, I would see Him and through Him find my greatest self.  

I’m still practicing intermittent fasting, but no longer am I starving for food, I’m starving to fulfill His purpose.  A starving girl in a house full of food is a strange phenomenon but I’m hoping fasting takes hold and changes the life of another starving person.  If you’re stuffed but unfulfilled I promise, you can be full without food.