Chews Wisely

by Joanie Butman

You'd think all the shoveling this winter would have prevented the customary layer of winter weight to accrue. Sadly, it did not. So, in an effort to shed extra pounds gained over a long winter, I joined my girlfriend in Rick Warren’s Daniel Plan – 40 Days to a Healthier Life. I was hoping to get my body ‘beach ready,’ though I use the term loosely at my age. I thought several weeks of healthy eating would be enough to at least allow me to fit into last year’s bathing suits.

After her six-week weigh in, my partner called to let me know she lost four pounds. I responded that if she ever wanted them back, I found them on my butt and would gladly return them. Disappointingly, I weighed in at exactly the same tonnage, despite exercising daily and eliminating sugar and carbs from my diet. I was so disgusted I left the office and bought a hot pretzel and topped it off with dessert when I got home. This act of rebellion was definitely a self-defeating choice (certainly not my first), but I have to admit nothing tastes quite as good as forbidden fruit. I wonder if Eve thought the same as she bit into the apple.

My lackluster results got me thinking. Does anyone actually know what Daniel looked like? The Bible doesn’t include photos. Perhaps his diet adhered to kosher standards but was never meant as a weight-loss regimen. All I know is that I needed to reevaluate my strategy.

Nothing challenges me more than a limit – self-imposed or otherwise. It brings my rebellious nature front and center, which is why diets or rules of any kind rarely work for me. They force me to obsess about the very thing I want to forget. This tactic is one of Satan’s favorite and most successful strategies – tempting us with prohibited things and distracting us from the plethora of healthy alternatives – like fruit for dessert. Whoever heard of such a thing? Even a hefty dose of whipped cream fails to make that option remotely appealing, as opposed to cake, gelato in a waffle cone or a bag of peanut M&Ms. If I was Eve, Satan would have had to up the ante quite a bit.

This example brings up an interesting conundrum. Why is sin so much more alluring than its opposite? Even Paul, a spiritual giant, laments, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…Oh, wretched man that I am.” (Romans 7:15, 24) Maybe he too was on the Daniel plan. As a Jew, he probably did adhere to the same strict dietary restraints. Paul never mentions the nature of the thorn in his side. It could have been a penchant for bacon for all we know.

Regardless, the sad reality of aging is that the older one gets, the easier the weight goes on and the harder it is to take off. I would need to devote a large portion of my day to exercise just to keep my body close to my younger self. I’m not willing to do that, so I’ve surrendered to the fact that a woman’s body after a certain age isn’t meant to mirror an earlier version of herself physically, mentally or spiritually. I just wish I could embrace my physical girth the way I do my mental and spiritual expansion. As my daughter often comments, “If I was your age, I’d eat anything I want.” We’ll see. 

My diet strategy has switched to simply exercising daily and eating relatively healthily, leaving room for certain indulgences because miraculously they lose their enticing power once the restrictions are lifted. Aside from that, I’m letting the ‘chips’ fall where they may (which is usually my waistline). That was Daniel’s philosophy, and it worked for him. Against all odds, by choosing to maintain the lifestyle prescribed by his beliefs, he lived well into his 80s or 90s. My new goal is to exercise the same kind of discernment towards my body that I apply to my mind and my heart where the choice of what to ingest has more serious consequences than an increase in dress size.

The Daniel Plan may not have worked for me in regards to my figure, but his devotion and dedication to fellowship and observing a daily prayer routine inspires and motivates me to do the same. Despite living in a foreign country with myriad responsibilities as the king’s servant, and the pressure to conform to a pagan society, he remained loyal to his tradition of spending time with God three times a day.

Aren’t there days when you feel like you’re living in a foreign culture with distractions (not all of which are negative) and responsibilities pressing in on all sides? And who doesn’t feel pressured at times to conform to an ever-changing standard of acceptable behaviors. I do, but when I choose to follow Daniel’s type of prayer regimen, I feel more grounded and even lighter regardless of what the scale reads. I may look the same, but I’m enjoying a healthier spiritual life, rich in quantity, substance and flavor without the calories. 

What’s your approach to ‘chewsing’ wisely?