This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 1: ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.”
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“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a couple dozen times,” captures well the pattern of trying to change our relationship with food. We want to, but we don’t. We’re motivated, but we’re not. We think we should, but wish people would just leave us alone. This mindset is called “ambivalence” – feeling two contradictory emotions about the same thing. Even if we didn’t know what ambivalence was, we’re good at it.
Read James 1:5-8. This is often a guilt passage. We read it and think, “If it applies to me, I should freak out because it sounds really bad.” Start with verse five and realize the passage begins with presenting God as generous. God is not upset about supplying what we need in our double-minded moments. This will help you not doubt there is hope for your fickle desire to change (v. 6). God is a gentleman. He won’t change us against our will (v. 7). But God is also loving and warns us against the dangers of our double-minded tendency. At this stage in your journey, you’re just getting comfortable with what God already knows. There is hope because God is not surprised even if we are surprised when we admit how bad things have gotten. Hope begins where you are and God will always join you there.
You need to name this tendency early in your journey or this attempt will merely be the latest edition of your good intentions. Don’t feel ashamed of your conflicted motives. God already knows and he still wants to help. The only person you can lie to is yourself and those who love you. In this section, you will look at five levels of motivation from Carolyn Costin & Gwen Schubert Grabb in 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder (p. 19-22; bold text only). In the parentheses we’ll map out how these correlate with the nine step journey of this study.
- Pre-Contemplation (before you started): This is the stage when we think our relationship with food is fine. You are annoyed and offended if someone suggests that changing your eating or exercise habits would be a good idea. “Change” is a concept met with resistance instead of consideration.
- Contemplation (step one): Now you are beginning to believe that change might be beneficial and are wondering what the process might look like. You are trying to decide if change is “possible,” and, if so, if it’s “worth it.” You want to know what would be required of you and whether these sacrifices would produce a more satisfying life than continuing to neglect them.
- Preparation (steps two to four): In this phase your consideration becomes more concrete. You gather the information necessary to enact an effective and sustainable plan. You assess obstacles; both logistical (external) and motivational (internal). You begin to enlist people to come alongside of you for the journey.
- Action (steps five to seven): At this point plans come to life; ideas become choices. Progress is made and setbacks are navigated. There are successes and failures, but the trajectory of your journey is forward. Techniques become habits and habits become a lifestyle. You begin to enjoy the fruit of living differently.
- Maintenance (steps eight and nine): A new lifestyle is embraced. Increasingly your emotions and thought patterns conform to this new lifestyle of stewarding your body for the glory of God. You learn to navigate changes related to events (e.g., wedding or a vacation) and life changes (e.g., metabolism changes with age).
Exercise: In the margin beside these five levels of motivation write “today” beside where your motivation is now. Write significant dates or events in the margin that came to mind when you read each description. Avoid writing the names of people. It’s not that we can’t learn from others, but there is a tendency to compare ourselves to others and say, “I’m not like them. This would be easier if I were.” Whether that is true to not, it’s not useful. This is your journey. No one will take it but you. Do not feed that habit of distracting-discouraging yourself with comparisons.
If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Disordered Eating” post which address other facets of this subject.