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Truths That Will Trim Your Waistline

By Laura J. Bagby Sr. Producer Can keeping yourself from reaching for that delectable candy bar or just one more teeny handful of potato chips be as simple as telling yourself, “Stop It!” when faced with such temptations?

Well… yes and no. It’s a bit deeper than it sounds, as I found out from one weight-loss motivator and self-confessed compulsive overeater, Carole Lewis.

You might know her as the national director for First Place, a weight-loss program that began at First Baptist Church of Houston and has since 1981 been solidly upheld by some 12,000 across the nation for its Scripture-based principles.

The First Place program, called that because it endeavors to put Christ first, considers the whole individual—the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical aspects—and utilizes Bible study, weekly group accountability sessions with weigh-ins, a nutrition plan, consistent exercise, daily prayer, and Scripture memorization to encourage those wishing to shed pounds to reach their goals.

Lewis told me recently in a phone interview that there are two components that are essential to living a healthier lifestyle. First, we must rely on the Holy Spirit. We must take every wrong thought captive and then ask God to remove that thought from our minds before it leads down a destructive path. Second, we must engage our wills. Instead of playing the victim or blaming someone else for our weight issues, we have the power to transform our destinies. The phrase Stop It!, when acted upon using these two principles, becomes our ally in resisting the bad and accepting the good.

“It is kind of like a two-pronged sword here,” she said. “Our will has to come into play along with the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s why self-control is one of the fruits [of the Spirit] listed. I have always been happy that it was the last fruit, thinking that maybe it is less important. But it is listed. And self-control is nothing but exercising our will to say, ‘Stop It! Enough!’”

Sounds easy, but the reality is that we often prefer the path of least resistance when it comes to disciplining ourselves in the area of diet and exercise. It’s more comfortable to maintain the bad habits that never worked for us than to implement new behaviors that would bring success.

But as Lewis told me in this reality-check statement, “If you refuse to even consider a lifestyle change, you are going to gain the weight back. Anybody can lose weight; gaining the weight is the problem.”

Much of the battle is retraining our brains to consider the long-term consequences of our daily choices, whether good or bad.

Many women, like Elizabeth Crews, a successful addictions counselor who lent many of her principles to Lewis’ latest book, wake up one day, stare in the mirror, and ask, “How did I gain these 50-plus pounds?” Maybe you are there yourself. How can this be?

Well, as Lewis explained, “We don’t play the tape till the end”—meaning we don’t forecast where our actions will take us. And that can have disastrous consequences, as she illustrates from the life of King David in the Bible.

“David obviously did not play the tape to the end,” stated Lewis. “He wanted to indulge his fleshly desires and he didn’t think. Had he known what was going to happen in the spiraling effect downward of his behavior, he would have never called for Bathsheba to come to his room. It was not worth the consequences.”

When we force ourselves to see farther down the road in every diet decision, we can redirect our efforts toward positive results.

For instance, get this statistic that Lewis told me: “Just losing two pounds a week, 52 weeks later, we could be 104 pounds lighter.”

Would you like to shed about one hundred pounds in the coming year? It’s possible!

But you need to watch out for that tendency to relapse. First, we as Americans want what we want when we want it, and with fast food restaurants and 24-hour grocery stores, we can get it quickly. Therefore, we must have a good plan in place for when those temptations threaten to overtake us. Second, we forget to stop that enticing thought from taking root in us. We simply act on those notions that we have been dwelling upon.

Explaining how she nips those niggling thoughts in the bud, Lewis told me, “When the enemy brings that thought to my mind and I begin to think about it, I take that thought captive to God and say, ‘Lord Jesus, will You remove that thought right now, because that sin has been cleansed by Your blood.’”

Lewis noted that is it is also crucial for each of us to identify that one type of food that gets us off track and heading toward a full-blown binge. Is it something salty and crunchy, like nacho chips? Is it something sweet, like chocolate? For Lewis, it has always been the sweet and creamy category: ice cream, cheesecake, a creamy candy bar. Lewis admitted that she only realized this about herself recently while writing her Stop It! book—and she has been in the weight-loss arena with First Place for about 25 years. Recognizing your food culprit isn’t something you do through rigorous self-discovery. Rather, it takes laying it all down before the Lord.

“I believe that if we would ask God to show us what our trigger food is, He will show us. He is glad to tell us,” she said.

She continued, “When I talked about identifying that one thing, I think about Mark 21, where Jesus had the meeting with the rich, young ruler, and He pinpointed what the rich, young ruler’s problem was. It was possessions, money. He told him to sell everything that he had and come and follow Me. The Scripture says that the rich, young ruler went away sorrowful. You see, Jesus wasn’t being mean to him. Jesus looked straight through to his heart. He knew what his problem was. Jesus will be happy to tell us what the problem is, whether it is just laziness, whether we have a deep-seated hurt that we have refused to forgive. He will tell us. And then it is our responsibility to do something about it.”

Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “Yeah, it’s easy for Carole Lewis. She heads a weight-loss program that has built-in accountability.”

True. But what you probably don’t know is that, like all of us who are living out our Christian walk and battling temptations, Lewis has had her share of trials.

Lewis lost her daughter Sheri in 2001 to a drunk driver, leaving behind a husband and three daughters. At the time, it seemed like a senseless act. Did Lewis run to food for her comfort? No, she was able to run to God.

Because she and her good friend, Pat, had decided to memorize all the verses that were part of the First Place Scripture memorization, which totaled 80 at that time, Lewis had God’s Word to fall back on when she wasn’t sure she could make it another day.

“Those verses have saved my life,” she professed, “because when I would be awake in the night having what I call ‘Momma thoughts’—Who is going to help the girls with their weddings? Who is going to be the grandmother?— God would bring those verses to my mind and they would comfort my heart.”

One verse in particular that would come to mind in those dark nights of the soul was Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Lewis is currently facing another personal battle. Her husband, Johnny, is fighting stage-four prostate cancer and has been for the past eight years.

I asked her about how she is coping, and Lewis, ever the optimist, told me in her genuineness, “It has been the most beautiful journey with God for both of us. I would have said years ago when I heard stories like mine, ‘Don’t ask me to do that. I can’t do that.’ But when God calls you to go through something, He equips you to go through it.”

“I have become fearless,” Lewis continued. “I don’t waste time being afraid of anything anymore. I figure the devil has given it his best shot. He has hit us in ways that I could never have imagined. So I just say, ‘God, You have shown me that You have more power that he does in a life. If what we have gone through can help any other person, then it has been worth it.’”

With that said and with the understanding that God works all things out for His good, as the Bible tells us in Romans 8:28, Lewis presses forward, showing others the path to Holy-Spirit driven dieting success.

“Really, it’s not about me,” she humbly confessed. “It really is about God and Him receiving glory from our lives. When He receives glory, we do, too.”

Comments? E-mail me.

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