Wednesday, December 5, 2007


So many Americans are overweight. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of books, theories, over the counter pills, surgeries, therapies and motivational speakers that all claim to help people lose weight. Yet the average American continues to get fatter every year. Even children are obese. What to do?

The first thing is that we have to come to terms with a fact that nobody likes: When it comes to nature, you can't beat the system. Any attempt to trick nature will inevitably backfire on you. I believe that this is because God created nature, and any human attempt to "improve" upon it is destined to ill fate. Whatever you believe, the evidence is there, it doesn't work to try to get around the natural order of things. As the old saying used to go, "It's not nice to trick Mother Nature."

I believe that the incredible increase in obesity in America is due to the fact that instead of learning the system and working within it, the mindset is always to find a way to get around it, to seem to be having more when you are really having less. It just doesn't work, folks.

My family is not overweight. And guess what? We use real butter, real olive oil, real sugar and real meat. We sit down to meals together and enjoy them. We have dessert, for goodness sake! Artificial sweeteners are taboo in this house, not only because I get wicked migraines from them, but also because I believe that they make you fat.

Artificial sweeteners make you fat? Yes, I believe they do. Your body was designed to take in a certain amount of sugar, to maintain a certain blood sugar level. Your taste buds were designed to help you do that, appropriately. When you eat or drink something that tastes sweet but does not deliver the expected blood sugar, your body is cheated. Something happens, and the body begins to crave more sweets. The more it is cheated, the more sweets it craves. In the end, artificial sweeteners stimulate the body to consume more calories (particularly sweet ones) than ever, because of distorted appetite.

The Bible says, "My soul will be satisfied, as with the richest of foods," (Psalm 63:5). Of course, this is talking about how God Himself is truly the answer to our deepest longings, and we must not lose sight of that. But there is also an implicit understanding here that people see mot have forgotten in the present age: Rich foods are satisfying, and it is good to be satisfied. It is also good to know when you are satisfied, and to stop consuming and just enjoy the feeling of being satisfied.

There are three principles that I think would help most people in America lose weight if they followed them.

(1) Learn how to cook well, and then eat delicious, satisfying, home-made food. These days it is cheaper to buy Little Caesar’s pizza or burgers off the “value” menu at Wendy’s or MacDonalds than to cook a nutritious meal at home. But it is still worth it to cook at home. The wholesome ingredients and the satisfaction of sitting down to a family dinner can not be duplicated with $5 of fast food. You know that. It’s obvious. So learn how to cook—GOOD food. Master roast chicken, beef pot roast, lasagna, chili, homemade macaroni and cheese from scratch, meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, beef stew, homemade chicken soup, the list goes on. Don’t just decide that nobody likes it because all you have ever eaten was burgers, pizza and tacos with the lettuce and tomatoes left off. If you didn’t like your mother’s recipes, find new ones. Learn to puree your butternut squash and eat it with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Steam your green beans with little pieces of bacon. Pour heavy cream on your Brussels sprouts. Butter and salt your corn. Peel up some apples and bake an apple crisp. Fix your food with love, make it taste good, and then sit down and eat a nice, satisfying meal.

(2) Do not eat indiscriminately between meals. There are times when a snack is appropriate. At our house, we used to have a snack just before 4 p.m. This was mainly because, in my childbearing years, if I didn’t eat shortly before 4 p.m. I would descend into a downward spiral of nausea that lasted a l-o-n-g time. It was also because Shawn comes home from work late, and dinner is never before 7 p.m., so the little ones had to have something to tide them over to dinner after their naps. Now the afternoon snack is simply upon arrival home from school. It involves sandwiches, leftovers from dinner the night before, fruit, any baked goods that might be around, bowls of cold cereal, crackers, cheese and often chocolate milk. The other night we had a lovely snack comprised of homemade hot cocoa, Amish friendship bread, corn chips and salsa, apples and almonds. It was a Sunday, and the snack took the place of dinner on a hectic weekend. So if you need a snack, schedule it in. But do not, I repeat, DO NOT eat constantly all day long. It is very important, if you are to maintain a healthy weight, to be able to discern when you are hungry and when you are full. If you eat out of habit, because you are bored, or just simply because something looks tasty, whether you are hungry or not, you are sure to be heavier than you ought to be. Eating is not like breathing… you don’t do it all the time. Eating is much more like going to the bathroom (same system, you know). You do it at intervals, and between intervals, you feel fine and think about other things (unless you are sick, but that’s different). When your body signals you that you need to do it again, you arrange to do so, and afterwards you again go off and do other things.

(3) Let yourself get hungry. I cannot tell you how many parents I have watched feed their children every minute of the day—a dish of dry cereal, a cup of juice, a cookie, a cracker, some chips, more cereal, more cookies—snacks by their side while they are playing with their toys, while they watch TV, even when they go outside with friends, they take a snack along. Then at dinnertime, the family sits down to the meal and the children pick at their food and only put down the tastiest parts. The poor kids aren’t hungry. Nothing appeals to them. Of course they only want dessert. Let your kids get hungry. Let yourself get hungry. It is a good thing to get hungry. Foods taste so much better when you have a true appetite

Other things that help with weight—do not confuse hunger with thirst, and learn to drink water. In fact, if you think your body is confused on this point, make a rule to yourself to always counter your first urge to eat by drinking a glass of water. You may be surprised how much this satisfies. Of course, if you are truly hungry, the water won’t help, but it won’t distort your appetite, either, and having water in your stomach when you sit down to eat may help you to feel full faster and thus eat less at the meal.

Do not make food your main focus. Enjoy it at the proper time, and thank God for it. If you are sad or angry, do not turn to food for comfort. It will always make you feel worse, if not immediately, a few days later when you see the pounds you’ve put on. For physical hunger, go to food, eat and be satisfied. For emotional hunger, pray, read a good book, do a good deed, talk to a friend, or, if all else fails, sleep. Never eat to fill an emotional void.

Don’t eat gross things that are loaded with artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, refined sugar and corn syrup sweeteners. Tear off their trendy, slick disguises and see them for what they are—junk food. And do not eat them. I mean really, what do you want? A blue sour-patch something or other with crystallized something or other all over it, or a homemade brownie with pecans and fudge frosting (real butter, no trans fats)? Or would you rather have some Bugles or a serving of beef tenderloin? Recognize what is gross, and never eat it.

It isn’t that hard. It just requires some retraining. If you have terrible eating habits, talk to your doctor, but I would recommend fasting for a day, and then slowly adding back foods, drinking lots of water, until you are getting hungry and satisfying your hunger with regularly scheduled meals at least 3 hours apart. Try it; you might like it.

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