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Chris Carpenter
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Everything You Need is In the Bag

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - The sun had barely risen over the eastern horizon on January 2nd when it all began. 

Thrusting a rumpled looking, white plastic bag into my hands my wife implored, “Whatever you do, eat only what is in this bag!”

Her demand seemed fair enough.  After all, it was the new year and like any man whose love handles were the size of a semi-inflated inner tube, I acquiesced.  What could I do?  I had no leg to stand on.  My knees had been constantly aching from the extra weight I was carrying and in recent months I actually preferred sitting rather than standing.  So, yes, I had no leg to stand on. 

“Today is a new day!” my wife declared.  “You will thank me for this, honey!”

Not exactly the best word choice on day one of a new diet.  The simple utterance of the word “honey” set off visions of glazed donuts glistening in the shimmering light of a new morning.

A quick glance into the bag only made things worse.  My main course had been replaced by a child’s sized portion.  Carrot sticks were my substitute for potato chips.  Cookies, cake, or pie was now represented by an oblong piece of fruit.  I think it was a pear but I wasn’t quite sure.  It had been a long time since I had eaten one.  Completing my culinary state of bleakness was a whole grain bagel that looked like a sea ration left over from a war long since past.

“It's whole wheat and good for you,” my wife offered.  She knew I was struggling with this brave new world of nutrition.

You need to understand, my philosophy on dieting has always been simple.  I didn’t.  Instead, I always made it a point to enjoy a good sandwich, I never turned down free food when it was offered and I always super sized whenever the mood struck.

Admittedly, the end result of my far-fetched food philosophies were less than desirable.  The best way to describe it is by using football terminology.  In my twenties I had the physique of a running back.  In my thirties, I was the size of a linebacker.  Now, on the dawn of my forties I had slipped into the category of an offensive lineman with a propensity for Twinkies over touchdowns.

With a dour look on my face I climbed into my car, lunch bag in hand, and headed down the highway toward this new seasoning, er, season in my life.  I wasn’t five miles into the journey when my cell phone started buzzing.  I picked it up and hit the receive button.  It was my wife.

“I forgot to share a few more dieting rules with you that go beyond the bag,” she said.

I think I felt a tear welling at the corner of my eye.  “Go ahead,” I gulped.

“You are only allowed to have one soda, one glass of juice, and one glass of milk per day.  Also, there are to be no afternoon trips to the vending machine and absolutely no sugar or cream in your coffee.  Understood?”

“But that would mean I have to drink water,” I sniffed.  (I have never been a big fan of water.  In fact, I think I drank roughly one glass per month prior to going on this diet.)

“Exactly,” she said with gusto.

Before I could argue or attempt to negotiate, she was gone.  I was left holding a bag containing what I would classify as UFOs (unidentified food objects), a list of rules that seemed unreasonable, and an overwhelming desire to stop at the donut shop where everyone knew my name.

That was ten extremely long and excrutiating days ago.  Fast forward to today.

I’m not going to lie to you.  This nutritional adventure I have been on has not been easy.  I have been tempted by tarts, tasty treats, and pecan turtles.  I have walked through the valley of flame broiled cheeseburgers.  I have stood in the shadow of the Hidden Valley Ranch and not crossed onto the property. 

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this munchie madness has been going to restaurants.  I must confess that even though my wife told me to eat only what was in the bag I have slipped out to "kitchens of ill repute" on three occasions.  In each case, I have told my dining partners, ‘What happens at lunch stays at lunch.’  However, I am happy to report I ate the salad each time. 

Through it all, I have lost four pounds in my first ten days of dieting.  Not excellent, but forward progress nonetheless.

Dieting is not easy.  In fact, it is probably one of the more difficult things I have ever done in my life.  Willpower has never been one of my strongest virtues.  But cutting out the sugar has forced me to really take a good hard look at who I am in all phases of my life.  One discovery I have made has a direct correlation to my faith. 

I can’t make it on my own.  I just can’t.  And you can’t either.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah writes, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.  They shall run and not be weary.  They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

This world’s pace would drain even the most optimistic among us if we had to rely on our own resources alone.  However, we have received God’s wonderful promise that if we trust in Him He will renew us as we need renewal.  This means He will help us curb desires of the flesh as they arise.  He will give us strength to face the things we have to face – drinking, addiction, marital strife, disappointment, even dieting.  How comforting to know this promise comes from the One who is everlasting, all-powerful, and whose endurance never fails.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to stop this constant craving for donuts …

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