Jay’s Story

Jay’s Journey to Improved Health and Wellness

“Why are you here?” Four simple words had me frozen in my thoughts. Melissa was reviewing some of the material in the VS Launch binder related to our purpose for coming and the motivations that would get us through the program. Melissa reviewed some possible reasons for coming: to lose weight, to have more energy, to be there for my spouse/children/grandchildren, to get off medications/lower medical expenses, to think more clearly…while all of these are good reasons to participate in this program, none of them were why I was there.

Why was I here? The truth is it was more a product of shame, guilt and panic. Some weeks earlier I was headed in to my doctor’s appointment. Dr. Smith has been my doctor for a few years now and we have had these same types of appointments quite a few times and I wasn’t looking forward to it, and I’m sure he wasn’t either. My A1C numbers were bad; in fact, the worst they had been yet.

Dr. Smith would normally kindly talk through the main things (nutrition and exercise) that would help the most to bring my diabetes under control. Then I would normally respond (and even really believe while I was in the office) that I would eat better and start exercising, but it became less and less convincing with each visit for both of us. Next, he would adjust my medications and try to find a new medication that would perhaps provide a boost of encouragement by not having as many side effects (weight gain/nausea). One time he had even challenged me to consider if I was honoring the Lord with my body.

This time was different. Dr. Smith had run out of options (besides more of the same) and ideas and he just flatly said “I’m praying for you, I haven’t lost hope,” but it sure felt like he had and I realized I had as well. That’s when the shame and guilt of making bad choices hit me like a ton of bricks. Many thoughts were going through my mind at the time but mostly I thought about all of those (God, family, friends (including my doctor)) that I had been letting down with my refusal to make changes. Panic set in and out came my desperate attempt to grasp for something, anything that would provide a glimmer of hope and not make me feel so pathetic. I don’t recall who mentioned it first but there was a new VS Launch class starting soon and I committed to go to that. So the real reason I was there at that moment was due to panic, shame and guilt. It’s as simple as that.

But the questions weren’t over. Now Melissa was asking about motivations. For many the thing that brings them to Launch is probably also one of the things that motivate them, but that couldn’t be true for me. Panic, shame, and guilt are not realistic, long-term motivators. Besides, while others are putting up pictures of their loved ones on the Launch board, what would I put up a picture of…an angry T-Rex? While the question of “why was I here” was answered pretty quickly, this one would take more time, but it was well worth it.

It was during the 14-day Quick Start Nutrition Plan that a true motivator began to become clear. I had a pretty rough start to the 14-day plan and my thinking was very foggy the first 7 days. I knew I was starting to feel better when I started getting pretty grumpy about my meals. I used to really look forward to each meal, but now I didn’t even want to think about having broccoli or cauliflower again. It was at one of these meals that it finally struck me. For a long time I have been giving thanks before each meal. This time as I began to do that, the thought struck me: “I’m not thankful for this.” This shocked me; how could I not be thankful for everything that God provides, even broccoli? It caused me to stop and consider if all the other times I gave thanks were because God provided or because it was something I desired. (BTW, I’m pretty sure I still don’t need to be thankful for spinach). This is when the light came on and I found my motivator: pleasure.

Not pleasure in the sense that I was all of a sudden going to start liking these healthy choices more than the food that I ate before, because that is not the case. At this point, my tastes have changed very little. In fact, if given the choice between a donut and broccoli, I would still choose the donut 100% of the time, if based solely on taste preference. It was also not pleasure in the sense of desiring a healthy body more than an unhealthy one or choosing to have more energy rather than less or even pleasing others. This was about pleasure in God. More than a year ago I had worked through the process of a Personal Improvement Project (PIP) as part of a class I was taking. The basic concept is to examine an area of your life in which you have negative or sinful behaviors that you would like to change. You start by biblically examining the behavior and the sins that feed this behavior. You continue to dig deeper until you find the root cause. From there you do a bible study on that (those) sin(s) while at the same time recording incidents in which the unwanted behavior happens. As you look for biblical examples of the sin(s) it becomes easier to see it in your own life and the things that lead to the behavior. You continue studying and memorizing passages of the putting off/on of the sin(s) and begin to apply those in your situations.

“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22–24, ESV)

The area I studied for my class was how comfort and pleasure often drove my decisions. Food and exercise were just other areas of my life in which I pursued my selfish pleasure. I began to study the Scriptures some around this topic. Many of the same passages that I had reviewed before applied here. It became quickly evident what I needed to do. The solution was simple: instead of eating to satisfy my flesh, I would now eat to fuel my body and honor God. The words my wife said many times ring in my ears “we don’t live to eat, we eat to live.” Now, with renewed desires and a renewed mind in this area, those words finally make sense. Patty occasionally gets one right…

Could I do this in my own strength or even with encouragement from others? Lack of discipline and willpower is what got me to this point. Is 40+ years of this going to be changed by now deciding to have discipline and willpower? I needed a supernatural work of God to change…

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11, ESV)

War against our soul is no small matter. We often look for the quick fix or magic pill in life to solve problems quickly and painlessly for us. While God does work in those ways sometimes, it is not generally how I have experienced Him. He has often brought me to the end of myself through difficulties and struggles, exposing my sin in the process. As unpleasant as that can be, it has also been the greatest blessing as I have learned to be thankful and trust in Him. My pleasure is one of those areas that I had worked on in the past and that work was now producing fruit again. This really was a “light switch” moment in which I was no longer struggling with food choices. In the past I would wonder, “How long I will I have to endure this?”, or “Can I exercise enough to erase the indulgement I’d like to take”? Now it was just a matter of, “What fuel does my body need and will I be obedient to Christ in my choices and thankful and content with what He provides?”

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Romans 6:12–13, ESV)

I don’t believe the Scriptures were given to us to provide some specific type of diet. But I do believe they were given that we might know God and how to have relationship with Him. Part of that relationship is to honor Him and bring glory to Him in all areas of our life, including our body.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV)

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1, ESV)

So how does all this apply when I stand before the donut and broccoli trying to decide which one to have? Unlike in the past this is no struggle at all for me. I’ll choose broccoli not because I like it better, not because it’s healthier for me, not because it might mean I’ll be around longer for my family or even because God has decreed broccoli to be better than a donut (He hasn’t). I’ll choose the broccoli because my pleasure is no longer found in donuts or even broccoli, it’s in Christ. For me, this new healthy lifestyle isn’t so much about eating right, exercising more, or having less medications; this is a spiritual battle where at each point I am tempted to choose my own way or to be satisfied in my Savior.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” – John Piper

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” (Psalm 16:5, ESV)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

Note:  Just prior to publication, Jay called to share the good news that he just got his lab work back and he has already dropped his A1C by 5 points and is able to stop taking insulin!  Way to go Jay!

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