Overcoming Gluttony

fat squirrel

A Personal Testimony:

Like most Christians, my life since coming to Christ has not been full of rainbows and unicorns with everything being just perfect and wonderful. Now, I’m not saying it has not been filled with the joy that only the Holy Spirit can bring, but I am saying it hasn’t always been easy for me. You know the old saying 3 steps forward and one step back? Well for me it’s always been more like 1 step forward and 5 steps back. I’ve had many different areas of struggle in my life but one particular one is weight. Boy have I struggled over the years with that one! I’ve ridden that diet roller coaster of weight gain, lose it, weight gain, lose it, weight gain……a vicious cycle.

It began after the kids were born – I just never seemed to get rid of that extra baby weight, and so it kept piling on. Over the years I know I’ve tried every diet fad and diet plan known to mankind and then some. I even no doubt invented my own plans from time to time. But every single one worked at first, but then what? Every single time the weight came back. And it not only came back but every pound I had lost brought a friend with him when it came back, so I always ended up heavier than I had been to begin with! Those pounds always came back because I never really changed anything. It was always, “Just get that weight off”, and then go back and do the same old things that caused my weight gain to begin with!

One huge mistake that I made in all of my struggles was to try ‘diet’ this and ‘diet’ that. Zero calories this and zero calories that, in particular anything that had artificial sugar in them like Aspartame, or Sucralose, or Nutrisweet for example. Little did I know (since there was no information on this at the time) but this stuff was far more harmful than it was good. I won’t say anymore on this subject other than to say that hundreds of studies show that it causes Metabolic Disorder in 70% of the population which always leads to weight gain instead of loss. To throw another monkey wrench into things, I developed Adenomyosis when I was 32 and had to undergo a complete hysterectomy since at the time that was the only treatment. Consequently, I was placed on synthetic hormones which – yes you guessed it – as a side effect can cause weight gain. Don’t you wish some pharmaceutical company somewhere would just get with the program and just once come up with a medication that had a “you will lose weight side effect” instead? Unfortunately for me no one has, so I continued to balloon and I had more excuses for being heavy than Carter’s used to make liver pills. I was the absolute queen of diet excuses, or rather bad diet excuses.

Now the longer this cycle went on the more sin gained control of my life. I began to develop a sort of c’est la vie attitude. I would tell myself that nothing I did was going to have any positive effect since things were completely out of my control. I began to convince myself that there was nothing that I could do; therefore, it was perfectly justifiable for me to eat whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted it! Self-satisfaction began to be the most important thing in life. Through it all I would never say that my weight gain was ever my fault due to my own sinful behavior. No, instead I blamed it on my estrogen medication, I blamed it on genetics, I even blamed my poor Mother. After all, she’s the one who forced me to clean my plate as a kid (all those starving kids in China she’d say to me); I blamed it on my poor husband and some of his bad eating habits being forced onto me, and so on it went.

I even looked at the Scriptures and found more excuses. I would look at verses like Proverbs 31:30 where it says “Beauty is vain”; or I would see I Samuel 16:7, “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Or I Peter 3:3-4, “Your adornment must not be merely external”…….And I would abuse those wonderful verses and say, see! It doesn’t matter how fat I am because God looks at the heart! I can be as fat as I want and He doesn’t care!! Or I Timothy 4:8 where it says, “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things”, and I would twist that verse and run with it and say, “See! Exercise doesn’t matter to God, it doesn’t profit, only internal godliness matters!!” See how easy that is? To read into the Scriptures what you want it to say in order to justify sinful behavior? Am I the only one who has ever done this?!?

But God didn’t leave me alone in this. I was absolutely miserable. And I was riddled with guilt. Living in sin just seems to do that to a person. The Holy Spirit just keeps on working whether we want Him to or not doesn’t He? And so things just continued to go downhill for me. I got so frustrated riding that diet roller coaster and never getting anywhere that I finally reached the point where I just threw my hands up in the air and I said: “I Give Up Lord!” And at that point I quit even trying to lose weight any longer with the result being that I just kept on getting fatter and fatter – because I became a glutton. If I was going to be heavy no matter what I did, I may as well enjoy life, I said to myself. And so when you reach this abyss you eat whatever you want, portion size doesn’t matter, and whenever you feel like it. The lust of the eyes and satisfying the desires of the flesh begins to reign in your life. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t happy, and fortunately the Lord still wouldn’t give up on me. I ended up with high blood pressure, having to undergo gall bladder surgery, heart problems, and found myself on a fast track towards diabetes, and I knew it.

So I began to make a list and reflect on what I was doing as a fat person that I hadn’t done when I used to be a thin person. In making my list, patterns began to emerge (besides the artificial sugar or the medications) that began to clue me in that perhaps I had an overeating problem. That it wasn’t all the excuses that I had deceived myself with, that perhaps I had become a glutton. I looked up the word glutton in the dictionary:

“A person who eats and drinks excessively or voraciously.” – Random House, 2016

“A person devoted to eating and drinking to excess.” – Collins English Dictionary 2012

And in my studies I began to see verses like:

  • Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty..”

  • Proverbs 28:7 – “…..But he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.”

  • Proverbs 23:2 – “And put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite.”

And this is the verse that absolutely brought me to my knees:

“For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” – Philippians 3:18 & 19

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

I got out my little Greek lexicon and looked up the word for ‘appetite’ in this verse and it literally translates to ‘belly’ or ‘stomach’. In other words, whose god is their belly, or whose god is their stomach. I was floored – This verse is saying that any person who is ruled by their belly, or ruled by their stomach, ruled by their appetite, is an enemy of Christ.

At this point I was able to look in the mirror and for the first time look at myself and say, “Sheree, YOU are the reason you are fat.” You don’t just have a metabolism problem, or a medication problem, or a genetic problem. You have a sin problem. You are overeating. You are being ruled by your desires for food and you need to repent. As I actually began to count out the calories and measure out portion sizes I saw just how many calories I was putting in and I was shocked. Oh. My. Gosh. You see I simply could not honestly sit there and blame all these different excuses I had come up with for my problems, because here I was consuming 3,000+ calories a day and my idea of exercise was walking from the sofa to the bathroom and back to the couch! Seriously? Going back to those verses I was abusing I finally realized that when God did look at my heart, He wouldn’t like what He saw! I had to repent.  And with my struggles in conquering this sin in my life I’ve also realized that gluttony is probably the most overlooked sin in the church today. It’s just something we do not want to touch! It’s the acceptable sin, or the respectable sin.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard a sermon on gluttony – if ever. And while many of us are overweight we do not want to confront this sin in ourselves or with others. There seems to always be something else or someone else we can put the blame to, rather than just facing the fact that we have a sinful love of too much food. In fact, the church can actually be a chief hindrance to help others overcome this sin in their lives. How? Because every time we get together as a body for fellowship or bible studies or whatever, there always seems to be food involved. We always seem to have snacks, or meals, don’t we? Why do we do that?

I submit that part of the reason we are refusing to acknowledge this sin comes from our excessive politically correct culture where sin has been redefined as disease. Our culture has made it taboo to speak out against this problem. There are people who are overweight genuinely due to certain medical issues such as a problem with a thyroid, etc. so we naturally just shy away from this. I also submit that most of us struggle with this sin at some point in our lives and we hesitate to confront, feeling hypocritical if we do, so again we punt the can down the road.

Did the early church fail to confront this sin or is this a fairly recent phenomenon? Clement of Alexandria had this to say in A.D. 190, “But the hiccupping of those who are loaded with wine, the snortings of those who are stuffed with food, the snoring rolled in the bed clothes, the rumblings of pained stomachs, cover over the clear-seeing eye of the soul by filling the mind with ten thousand fantasies, the cause too much food, which drags the rational part of man down to a condition of stupidity.” (The Instructor II:9)

If one researches through the writings of the early Church Fathers and the beliefs in the early church you will find many more such as the above. Why is this such a problem? It may well be that gluttony was listed as one of the 7 deadly sins due to the possibility of it being the ultimate gateway to sin. Gluttony represents a lack of personal self-control, all at the same time as being completely innocuous, it nevertheless creates habits of self-indulgence that will ultimately lead to other sins far more serious than the inability to put the fork down.

So in going back attempting to tackle this problem in my life I reread the definition again using a different dictionary this time, in this case Miriam-Webster 2016, which described it as – “one given habitually to greedy, excessive eating.” Excessive eating. Habitual excessive eating. Habitually indicates this is someone who lives this way 24/7 365 days a year. So we’re not talking about a Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day indulgence here – we’re talking about a lifestyle of overeating. Habitual. Now what does the Bible have to say about all of this even further:

  • I Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” And I had to ask myself if my overeating was giving glory to God. The simple answer is: No.

  • I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”  No. I definitely could not say my body was giving any glory to God being overweight.

 

I could honestly look at that verse in my heavier days and laughingly say, “If my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, why in the world do I look like Buddha?” Here I was, my body a temple of the Holy Spirit, looking more like I was worshipping Buddha than following Christ. What a sad temple is that?  So I began to see what a horrible testimony I was presenting to the lost in all of my heavier glory. I also began to seriously look at the BMI index. Body Mass Index:

 

 

The BMI figures are not set in stone, but they are nevertheless a good guide still currently in use by the CDC, the U.S. military, and most doctor’s offices. Now the following chart is going to be a bit painful. When looking at the chart below you can see weight on the left column with height running across the bottom and then graphed out the approximate range of where a person should be falling. Notice how much red there is? In running calculations from the previous BMI chart and then comparing them to this one I came up with a 5 ft 5 in woman who weighs 162 lbs would be considered overweight. BUT, if she weighs 186 lbs or above she is officially obese. Not just overweight – obese.

When I calculated my own BMI when I was heavy I found out I was off the charts. Another down on my knees moment. Because I began to realize using the BMI calculations that any woman over 200 lbs would have to be a minimum of 6 ft 5 in to be within a normal BMI. Any woman over 250 lbs would have to be a 7 ft Amazon AND a tri-athlete at least to be considered a normal weight!  So I began to pray, how do I overcome this? What am I doing wrong and what should I be doing to correct things? In the process I discovered some interesting patterns:

1. I tried on my own to stop doing what I was doing over and over, but I continued to fail as I was doing it on my own, so I just gave up. The one thing I did not fail at was gaining the weight back and keeping it on. My problem wasn’t motivation. My problem was recognizing that I had a sin problem. I refused to repent and trust God rather than trusting myself. Prov. 3:5 & 6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” It was never God will solve the problem, it was always the next bigger and better diet plan was going to solve the problem.

2. I blamed others or my circumstances for my failure. I refused to see what God had to say in Romans 14:12, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Stop the blame game! I am the only one responsible and answerable for my sin. No one else, and nothing else, is responsible for my sinful behavior; only me.

3. I refused to acknowledge that overeating is sin. I fell for the teaching of the world that being overweight is a disease, or it’s a metabolism problem, or it’s a genetic issue, or fill in the blank. It’s just not my fault. Now here is where my testimony may start getting me into trouble. I understand that not every overweight person is indulging in sinful behavior. I’m not saying that at all! I know there are indeed many medical factors and medications that can truthfully cause weight gain – and I’m not talking about these people. But I am talking about people who are overweight because they overeat and that statistically does happen to be the majority of us who are overweight. And this is my testimony, and since I know what I was doing better than anyone else, I can say with complete assurance that my struggles had to do with gluttony and nothing else. And when I was held captive to that sin it was easier to justify it by believing it was a weakness or a genetic problem rather than confronting my sinful behavior patterns. I should have applied I John 1:9 from the get go, confessing it then gaining forgiveness, rather than playing the blame game for years.

4. I refused to see that my overeating was controlling me rather than me controlling my overeating. I discovered that a lot of my overeating was actually being done in secret. You know eating when no one else is watching? At home in front of the T.V. or while reading a book, there I was stuffing my face.

Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not be master over you.” But there I was letting my sin master me. What I should have done was put James 5:16 into practice which is, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another,….” Get help. How I wish someone would have gotten in my face and said, “Sheree, you are fat! What are you going to do about it?” Unfortunately no one did – ever. We can laugh about that and say, “Oh boy, nobody is ever going to do that are we?” Who would be brave enough to ever do that one!!! I laugh even harder when I think about the guys ever braving that one, they know better! It makes me think of the old story where the husband gets that ‘deer in the headlights’ look when his wife asks him if her new dress makes her look fat. Nope, no way are the men ever going to touch this issue with a bunch of women in the audience. I’m the one who got snookered with this topic with this little pamphlet! And I can laugh about this now in hindsight, but at the time I can honestly say, “I should have confessed my sin and I should have sought help a whole lot sooner than I did.”

5. I began to hide from people like Eve tried to hide from God. While I was overweight, I would never let you take my photograph if I could help it. Which let me tell you is extremely difficult when your husband is a professional photographer. But I did it, and it wasn’t easy, but I managed to get it done as they say. Then I noticed that when I would see someone from my past that I hadn’t seen in years I would hide so they wouldn’t see me. I found myself refusing to attend class reunions, because I didn’t want anyone to see me that knew me 20+ years ago. And at that point I knew I had a problem.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” That certainly was me. I knew I needed to confess and stop hiding. Hiding from the sin instead of confessing the sin did not solve my problem.  And so I began to have my eyes opened. I began to realize that my food should be for strength, not mere satisfaction of my desires. My food is supposed to be for energy. That’s why it’s called calories. We eat for energy, no more and no less than what we need. God is gracious to us in that our food isn’t tasteless or unenjoyable, which unfortunately is precisely why we tend to abuse it in our sinfulness. And my food is also not intended for comfort. My comfort is to be found in the Lord. My food was never intended by God to be a stress reliever. I should be going to the LORD when times are tough. So in the process I’ve also come to hate the term, “comfort food”. I understand the rationale behind it, I’m certainly not trying to discount times when certain foods make us think of Grandma or memories that are special to us that make us feel all warm and fuzzy. Those things are not bad! But what I am trying to say here is that food should not be our source of comfort. God should always be our source of comfort. Consider these verses:

  • “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

  • “Desire the sincere spiritual milk of the Word” (I Peter 2:2).

  • “I am the bread of life. Come to me and you will not hunger”(John 6:35).

  • “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17).

God is our delight, He is our joy, and He is our comfort.  If I give myself over to being satisfied with spiritual bread, spiritual milk, then my appetite towards overeating will lose its power over me. And that’s what happened

I began to see that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. When I began to recognize that I had a sin problem and confessed it, repented of it, then God blessed me in this area. And only then. Until I repented of my sinful behaviors I had no success in long term weight loss. Once I repented that changed. I finally had success. And long term success at that. I don’t think it was me, I really don’t. I believe God honored my repentance as only He can.

Now, there are 2 things you’re not ever supposed to talk about to women, right? What are they? Age and weight. We can laugh about that too. Never, ever, ask a woman how old she is or what her weight is. If you want to open up a can of worms that one will do it! But with this pamphlet I am so getting myself into trouble here, because I’m bringing up both! I am hitting both and boy am I stepping in it I’m sure. Here I am going to mention both. And I want to mention both because God has blessed me so much and woe to me if I fail to give Him the glory for that. You see He brought me from a 270 lb weight 5 years ago to a current weight of 135 lbs.

And He did this to a 50-something year old woman. Age should never ever be a detractor for repentance or seeking to please God. Do not ever fall for the myth that once you are over 40 you are beyond help in this area. NO! You are not. You will never be beyond the scope of repentance and genuine change.  Was it easy for me? No. It took over 2 years and an incredible amount of self-control, and self-denial, and yes that dreaded word: exercise. It also took a change in lifestyle and a change in habits. I had to develop a change in eating habits and patterns. If I may I would like to leave you with a couple of tips for those of you who may be struggling with this sin like I did:

1. Repent. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

2. Submit to God and ask Him for the power to overcome gluttony in your life. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

3. Replace. Cultivate other or new appetites. Put off the old appetites and put on new ones. Ephesians 4:22-24, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, …..and put on the new self,…..” I found this quote on the Desiring God Ministries website that pretty much says it all from Dr. John Piper. “So we need to cultivate a range of appetites for great and good things, things like good literature, people’s fellowship, reading the Bible, nature, work, etc. Discover these other appetites so that things other than food can satisfy you. Then pray earnestly and cultivate and nurture these satisfactions.”

4. Be patient and praise God. Change is going to take time and believe me it’s going to take work. It needs time because it took a lot of years to develop those bad habits, and it’s going to take time to overcome them. Change will take time. Don’t be discouraged when you fail. You will fall and fail occasionally. And when you do, just pick yourself up and begin again. There is that old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time. Little by little. Letting it happen slowly allows you the time that you need to develop those new eating habits and disciplines that will become new habits and disciplines.

Remember Romans 8:1-2, 4, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death….who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” And remember as well, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” And that includes overcoming gluttony.

Repent, submit, replace, be patient and then praise Him for His goodness in your life.
If you do these things, if you repent and choose to develop godly patterns in the area of diet and exercise, and yet you are still overweight that’s not bad! Do not do what I did and give up doing what is right because you didn’t get the results you wanted. Stop that! Don’t beat yourself up if you are not a size 6 when you are doing everything you should be and are supposed to be doing. So what if you don’t experience the results that I did? If you do what is right then God will bless. He will bless perhaps differently, but He will bless.

There is nothing in Scripture that mandates how much we should weigh or what our dress size should be. Hollywood might mandate that but God doesn’t! Our goal in any weight loss plan is not to look like the next supermodel, our goal is pleasing God. Remember back at the beginning where I mentioned that I was abusing verses like Proverbs 31:30 where I went too far to the right focusing only on the heart, while neglecting my body in order to excuse sin? Well, now don’t go too far over to the left and neglect the heart by focusing only on the body in correcting your sinful eating habits.

We want to be right here in the middle where our hearts are the main focus, BUT, at the same time we take care of what God has given us in our bodies for His glory, and for His purpose. This is the goal.

I Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” ESV

 

 

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