I watched an interview yesterday of a thirty-something woman who had lost 100 pounds and maintained her new weight for five years. The reporter asked her a few questions about how she had done it and the summation of her answers was “on my own with a plan I designed for myself”. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop so I’d know why she had been selected for the show. Didn’t happen. While the woman wasn’t exactly inarticulate, she also wasn’t the least bit forthcoming about any of her diet or exercise secrets. She lost 100 pounds. Apparently the purpose of the interview was to tell us that if she could do it we can do it. Thanks so much for that waste of time and attention that I will never get back.
I am just a bit perplexed about our fascination with people who lose weight. And you’ll notice I said “our”. If someone has lost 100 pounds I’m right there in the front row to hear how they did it. We regard these people with the same high esteem as anyone who has achieved a major accomplishment and we want to hear all about it so we can emulate them. However, something has always bothered me about that concept.
Other than control their own mind and body, which should be the foundation of our existence, what have they done with their life? Seriously…a person can be hateful, dishonest, and annoying- they can be perpetually unemployed, take advantage of their mother, and beat the dog- but let them lose 100 pounds and there they are on a talk show as a role model for the rest of us.
And we have seen the same thing over and over again in sports, entertainment, and business. We hold up a person’s achievement for all to admire and then find out that the person achieving that glory isn’t a good person at all. It seems that greatness and balance don’t always go hand in hand. Self-control, focus, and achievement in one aspect of life often result in neglect of another.
The Bible teaches just the opposite- moderation, control, and goodness in all things- our thoughts and our deeds. I love Titus, one of the tiny overlooked books of the Bible. In it Paul gives advice for dealing with difficult people and living a good life. He tells Titus to teach the older men to “be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled and sound in faith, in love and in endurance”. Older women are to be “reverent in the way they live” so they can teach younger women to do the same. Younger men are encouraged to be “self-controlled” and Paul tells Titus “in everything set them an example by doing what is good”. My favorite verse (2:12) says that the grace of God teaches us “to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” A godly life is a balanced life, and although the Bible also teaches us that we have specific talents and abilities to use for the Lord, I don’t think it ever implies that we can abandon everything else to focus on that one gift.
I understand why weight loss is an obvious subject for discussion and admiration. After all, it is apparent to everyone when a person drastically changes their appearance. Ironically that is one of the things that has always irritated me about losing weight and has even sabotaged my diet a few times. I dislike focusing on my weight to the exclusion of other things in my life. Years ago I lost fifty pounds and became a “topic of discussion” at work. I ended up hating the fact that my ability to lose weight suddenly overshadowed every other aspect of my life. A little encouragement and a few congratulatory remarks were certainly appreciated, but at some point most people crossed the line and talked of nothing else. I ended up thinking, “Thanks, but let me tell you what else I’m doing with my life.”
I write often about health and food and diets and my weight. I will gladly tell you that I have lost ten pounds since December 23rd and that I think the recent changes I’ve made in my diet are going to be successful for me. But if I lose ten or even thirty more pounds, I’d still rather talk about teaching or gardening or photographing the birds. Better still, I’d rather talk about YOU and what you are doing. Our bodies should not be more important than what we do with them. And our appearance should not be the greatest concern of our life. Health and energy and mobility are better reasons for weight control- an important lesson I am slowly, but surely, learning.
Yes, I am trying to lose weight. But I am also trying to be a better person in so many other ways.
It is a daily struggle to live a godly life in this present age.
And it’s all about balance and self-control.