Spiritually speaking, I grew up as something of a denominational mutt.
My father was raised Catholic. My paternal grandfather (Opa) was Catholic and my paternal grandmother (Oma) was born a non-practicing German Jew. She survived 13 (or 14, depending on who you ask) concentration camps in WWII and became Catholic to marry my Opa.
My mother was raised Baptist and that diversity in religious beliefs brought me (in a roundabout way) into this world.
As time passed and we would relocate with each of my father’s job transfers and promotions, we would invariably end up at any church where my parents felt they got the best sermon and felt the best sense of community.
That included any combination of Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and some non-denominational churches.
I, myself, haven’t stepped foot in a church beyond the purposes of weddings or calling hours since I was in my early 20s. Not because I lost faith, per se, I just lost faith in what I felt the church was giving me.
However, I’ve always held a place in my heart and my life for God, even when I walked away from church services and didn’t keep up with any consistent level of prayer.
Growing up in a God-fearing household, I know that faith is an important thing. Whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddah, or simply yourself, faith means something. Faith is that concept, often a blind one, that we all strive to have to give us hope that something better is out there, in this life or the next.
I’ll often find people who put that faith into God (or their higher power of choice) to help solve their problems; whether it’s a financial struggle, an emotional one, or a physical one (like losing weight or recovering from an injury).
And personally, I don’t take an issue with it, I just think that it needs a little bit of modifying.
Because so many of my readers (and my clients) come to me with weight loss as one of their main goals, I’m tailoring this week’s article to those same God-fearing people who are asking for some guidance with those goals (and even a little something for those who don’t believe in God, because their goals matter, too).
I’m adopting a stance with inspiration (and a dash of tough love) from the serenity prayer to talk to you from this week, specifically three key words from that prayer: Serenity, Courage and Wisdom.
When you think about “serenity”, think about peace. And if you have weight loss (more specifically, fat loss) as your goal, there are certain things you’ll need to come to peace with:
-An energy deficit must be created and consistently reached. Whether you choose to eat slightly less or move slightly more or a convenient combination of both (which is advised), this is the only way to get you to your goal shy of weight loss surgery (or limb amputation which I don’t believe is something you signed up for). You have to make peace with this.
-There is nothing about an energy deficit that is inherently fun or exciting. No self-respecting adult likes to be told they can’t do something or can’t have something but if you are trying to foster an environment where you are eating less (however you choose to make that a reality), that means that sacrifices and compromises must be made. Will you be skipping ice cream for dessert or downsizing that super-sized Coke for a medium? These choices matter and they do count. You will also have to make peace with this.
-As part of the notion of serenity, it’s in accepting things we cannot change. With regard to fat loss, you can’t change the fact that as part of that journey, you’ll have to get better at saying “No” more often than you say “Yes” when it comes to the boundaries you set. That may mean fewer social engagements, less eating out at restaurants, ordering take-out or connecting with UberEats. That may mean more strategic grocery shopping and purchasing fewer impulse items. You also can’t change much about your resting metabolic rate (simplified: the calories you burn at rest not including exercise). So, unless you’re going to change your sedentary job for a job working construction or landscaping full-time, you may not have a lot of calories to work from when it comes to fat loss. In addition, if you don’t have plans to train year-round for marathons and half-marathons, you probably aren’t burning a lot of calories during exercise either. You have to make peace with this.
Courage is taking the first step (or at the very least, the next step) and moving forward. You’ll need courage to:
-Start your first gym membership, attend your first exercise class, approach your family to tell them your goals for yourself and your health, and to develop your team/community of support.
-Courage is working from the point I referenced in serenity about setting boundaries and enforcing them. That “No” means “No” and that the people in your life who are there to support you respect what you are asking of them. “No” is not synonymous with “Never”. It can mean, “Not now”, “Not in that way”, or “No, thank you.” Boundaries are healthy, boundaries are frequently necessary especially if you are someone who has spent a lifetime being a “people pleaser” and you’ve lost sight of your own goals and aspirations because you didn’t look after yourself first. Remember the concept of the airplane: If the plane goes down, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others.
-Courage is trying new things, learning new skills like (where appropriate): meal prepping, food journaling, or simply learning how to cook foods you’ve never had before (and being willing to mess up the occasional meal in the process).
-Courage is making new friends who have been where you want to be. They’ve made the changes in their lives that you want to make in yours, they’ve adopted healthy habits that you admire and can be inspired by.
-Courage is being willing to fail often and stepping back from those failures to assess: What went wrong? How do I change that?
Perhaps you’ve heard there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is essentially what you
“know” while wisdom is what you “know to apply in the right circumstances”. When it comes to fat loss, many people “know” what to do but they are not applying wisdom to consistently make the appropriate choices.
-Develop better noise filters. This is where having a coach can be helpful. A qualified, tenured coach has likely worked with enough people and seen enough circumstances similar to yours and they can help remove a lot of the “distractions” from your process. Between the deluge of information (most of which is out-of-context, misconstrued or simply wrong) on the internet and the opinions of anyone in your social circle, a good noise filter can help you focus on the steps that work versus that steps that might just be wasting your time.
-Wisdom also helps you differentiate from the fact that you are not like your neighbor. In other words, if your neighbor recently lost 40 pounds on the diet du jour, there can be a host of reasons why that diet will not work for you. While it is both admirable and inspirational that your neighbor lost the weight, comparing yourself to them is typically not advised. You have a different body, perhaps a different weight/height/age/level of activity/psychological relationship with food that is difficult to replicate. Wisdom helps you understand those differences so that you can find the tools that will work better for you.
-Wisdom reminds you that sensationalized information is rarely accurate. This goes for the nutrition documentary you watched on Netflix to any fear-mongering guru or “doctor” who is trying to scare you away from certain foods or food groups. The only foods you should fear are the ones you are allergic to (or for the purposes of fat loss, foods that you cannot moderate the portion sizes of). Celebrities are not credible sources of nutrition information and neither are late-night infomercials and the vast majority of best-selling diet books. Bear in mind, that just because something gains popularity does not mean that it is factual, credible or evidence-based.
If you’ve been praying to Jesus to help you with your fat loss goals, keep praying. Allow those prayers to give you comfort. But Jesus is not grocery shopping with you, Jesus is not removing the fork from your mouth, Jesus won’t put the sleeve of Oreos in the trash and Jesus won’t lift that weight for you.
You’ll have to do that work on your own.
The fortunate thing is that Jesus gave you the tools to do so: a mind and a body.
And for those of you who choose not to believe, the fortunate thing for you is that you’ll still need serenity (peace), courage and wisdom to accomplish the same goals, you just might not be using a higher power to get there.