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Our last two lessons look at dieting, at controlling our calorie intake to loose weight so that we are less likely to get diabetes or cardiovascular problems or gallbladder problems -- or any of many other medical problems that seriously overweight people become susceptible to. As believers, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we need to take good care of them for God. God has a plan and a purpose and a call on each of our lives, and He has invested a lot of time/energy to gift us and anoint us and develop His character in us. So He wants to use us to minister with Him and do with Him what He is doing to advance His kingdom. We can't do that very effectively when we are sick.
So we are "obligated" to try and take reasonable care of our bodies so that we can be healthy and available to serve Him. And a part of that reasonable care is to keep our weight within medically safe limits. If we are seriously overweight to the point where our health is at risk, we need to try and bring our eating and our weight under His Lordship and get it under control. And a big part of that is accomplished by sensible diet, by controlling the type and quantities of food that we put into our bodies.
1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This was in the context of deciding whether or not to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols. But I believe it applies to diet in general.
God wants us to put our eating under His lordship, to glorify Him in it and to allow Him to be in control of what and how much we eat. I believe that one of God's highest priorities for our physical well being is that we eat nutritiously and balanced and healthy. It is not easy to do that when we have a long history of poor and improper eating habits. But if we invite the Lord to come into our eating and help us with it, I believe He will empower us to make the changes we need to make over a period of time. We probably can't go from poor eating habits to perfect eating habits instantly, but we can begin the process of moving in that direction, inviting God to help us do so.
Some Hints For Successful Dieting Towards Weight Reduction
HINT 1 - Set Realistic Goals
If you try to change everything in your eating all at once, you will probably only last for a few weeks before you "can't stand it" and fall back into your old eating patterns. Try to target healthy balanced eating and calorie reduction. Don't think in terms of going from a 2000 calorie a day diet to 1000 calories, that is often too much of a cut-back. Set your goal to increase exercise by 100 calories a day and to decrease intake by 400 calories a day and you will lose a pound a week. That is much more realistic than targeting a 1,000 calories a day (e.g., fairly strict) diet.
HINT 2 - Use Your Calories Wisely
The previous lesson gave some calorie counts for various food groups and food types. You can make some minor changes to your diet that have big calorie savings. For instance, eat fish and chicken dishes for your meat most of the days of the week. Six ounces of white fish is only 150 calories where only 4 ounces of lean beef (or lamb or pork) is 400 calories. Stop using whole eggs for your omelets and use the egg-white products such as egg-beaters. If you have a serving of omelet that is equivalent to three eggs, you will save 175 calories. While you are at it, substitute a fat free cheese (Kraft sells sliced fat-free cheeses in American, Swiss and Cheddar flavors, and there are many other brands out there as well). One ounce of cheese is 100 calories, but one ounce of fat-free cheese is only 30 calories. Low calorie margarine substitutes will also save you calories.
And if you can change your snacking habits, you can save a lot of calories per day. A friend of mine lost 20 pounds over about 6 months just by switching from potato chips (she used to eat 2 big bags a day) to air popped popcorn. There are a lot less calories in air popped pop-corn than in potato chips. I personally used to snack on Ritz crackers (they are yummy). But it would take about 2/3 of a package (about 36 crackers) to satisfy me for a in-between meal snack. That is 400 calories, a very hefty portion of my daily calorie allowance as my mid-afternoon snack. I found that if I switch to a large baked potato or a yam I get satisfied and feel full on only about 125 calories. That is a savings of about 275 calories per day by making that one eating change. And the potatoes/yams are much healthier for me as well.
HINT 3 - Don't Eliminate Favorite Foods, Just Reduce The Quantities
There are often emotional needs that drive some of our eating choices. If we eliminate our favorite foods, we begin to feel deprived and the emotions work against us. We may be able to tough it out for a week or two, then we "can't stand it any more," and we binge. The best way to avoid that is to stop depriving ourselves. A friend at church told me a testimony they read in a book (or maybe they saw it on a video). This man loved sweets and was horribly overweight because of his sweet tooth. He decided to cut back to only having them once a week instead of daily. His favorite was a double dip scoop of ice cream... so he treated himself to a double dip scoop of premium ice cream every Sunday after church. He "fasted sweets" the other days of the week. As a result, he lost a fair amount of weight over a year and then was able to keep the weight off. His secret was that he did not deny himself his favorites, he just reduced the quantities that he ate them in.
HINT 4 - Low Calorie Meal Substitutions
My friend Bill Hartman tells me that diet statistics show that people do better in both reduction and maintenance if they have some type of easy to use meal substitution that is balanced and has a fixed calorie count. There are many substitutions out there that are probably very good. The one I am familiar with is Slim-Fast. They have a weight reduction program where you use two of their meal substitutes (shakes, canned drinks or meal bars that are 220 calories each) a day and eat one balanced sensible meal a day plus a few between meal snacks. This type of program works well for many people because the meal substitutes tend to "taste good" (for a season) and they are somewhat filling and satisfying. These substitutions help you to stay nutritionally balanced and to count calories easily because you don't have to think about those issues, you just have to eat or drink a serving of the meal substitute.
Some people find that two meal substitutes a day does not work for them because they need to feel like they are eating. They may wish to have a single meal substitute a day (maybe heat and drink a can of coffee flavored Ultra Slim-fast for breakfast) and eat sensibly the rest of the day.
Also, it is often helpful to have an energy bar or nutritious snack bar in your glove compartment, briefcase or purse. If you are starting to feel really hungry and out of control, you can take the handy snack bar and a glass of water before you reach for the candy bar or bag of potato chips.
HINT 5 - Environmental Control
It is harder to eat unhealthy and high calorie foods if you don't have them readily available in your home or in your desk drawer at work. If you get a craving for cookies at 2 AM and they are in the house, you will probably break down and eat them. On the other hand, if you have to get dressed and go to the all-night grocery store to obtain them, you will probably decide that is too much effort and not end up eating them. You may elect to "do without" or you may elect to eat something that is in the house and is a bit healthier and lower calorie instead.
Along with that, keep snack substitutes for those cravings handy, easy to use and readily available. Instead of keeping a jar of nuts in the house, have a bunch of grapes in the refrigerator, pre-washed and ready to eat. Get yourself some sugar-free, fat-free pudding mix and make with non-fat milk, put into individual serving dishes in the refrigerator so that when the chocolate craving hits you, you have a chocolate-like low calorie substitute handy.
In short, make it easy on yourself to have healthy substitutes and hard on yourself to get the no-nos you crave.
HINT 6 - Give Yourself Grace When You Make An Eating Mistake
I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be able to perfectly keep your diet all of the time ... very few of us are able to do that. So if you "slip" or give into a craving or binge ... don't spend a lot of time beating yourself up. Don't criticize and condemn yourself, because the bible says "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Ro 8:1).
On the other hand, don't wait to the next day to start your diet again -- that is like giving yourself permission to break it some more today because you already broke it. Instead, get right back on it. Don't wait for the next day or the next week to restart. If you "fall off of the horse" in your diet, then get right back in the saddle again. Don't live in defeat and bad eating habits, go right back to the diet and eat healthy and moderately for the rest of the day.
HINT 7 - Bring God Into The Process On A Daily Basis
You will find that it will be easier to diet if the Lord gives you a grace for dieting. So invite Him into the process each day. Ask Him to be Lord of your eating and to teach you how to successfully walk it out. Ask Him to empower you to eat the way He wants you to eat and ask Him to help you to be a good steward of the temple of the Holy Spirit, your body.