As many of you know I’ve fought a battle against excess weight most of my adult life. This is not a fun existence, but it’s just one of my crosses and shared by many other people, so I’m hardly unique. I engage in emotional eating which (for me) means I eat when I’m stressed. I’m stressed a lot, lol. Once I tried to follow the “only eat when you’re hungry” advice but when you’re hungry (as in, stomach growling) most of the time, that’s not good advice.

The only success I ever really had was when I did low-carb for over a year. That’s great and all, but when you can’t purge your house of tempting carbs because there are eight other people in it, and people tend to gift your family with carb-heavy food, especially during feasts (Christmas, Pascha…) eventually you start to crack.

Recently I had a come-to-Jesus talk with myself and realized that my previous few months of trying (with mixed results) to do low-carb again were ineffective. I examined it critically and decided it was mostly due to consuming too many low-carb calories, coupled with eating sugar-free snacks. While working one day I had idly watched an episode of My 600-Pound Life. The new format was heavy on patient soliloquy and narration. This was more interesting than the old format because it helped shine a light into the thinking process that resulted in obesity. I watched another episode. And another.

The unfortunate part? I started hearing familiar phrases. I watched more episodes. Same phrases. I was horrified. Truly, deeply, horrified. Granted, there were some significant differences: I wasn’t anywhere remotely as big as these people, hadn’t suffered severe childhood trauma, etc., but there was no denying the similar thinking patterns.

As I said, I had a come-to-Jesus moment. I decided there was absolutely no getting around it. I was going to have to decide that I was going to be hungry. I decided to aim for 1,200-1,400 calories a day. Three meals. No snacks. Still low-carb.

The first couple days I counted calories carefully. Then, having figured out what 1,200 calories looked like I just put the meal setting on repeat. Occasionally I stopped to calculate when having something unfamiliar.

I was hungry. I hate being hungry. I’m past the days when I have to worry about hypoglycemia (thankfully) so I knew nothing bad would happen if I didn’t eat. I stuck to it. The kids made cookies. They made brownies. I’m still fixing meals/plates for the youngest two so I had my hands all over the wrong food and at the wrong times. I was in the kitchen two-dozen times a day, making cups, fixing meals, putting away groceries, fixing meals, making sandwiches, filling cups, getting coffee. The temptations never let up.

Previously I felt victimized. Poor me, I can’t have this, I can’t have that, it’s not fair, etc. Not so much out loud but as a running inner monologue. This time, there was a difference:

I reframed it.

For the first time I didn’t hold out the mental carrot on a stick of “don’t you want to lose weight? You will fit into X. You won’t be ashamed of your appearance.” Instead, when I really wanted to get something to eat, even a few nuts because the last meal was five hours ago, I told myself, “if you don’t say no to the little things, how can you say no to the big things?”

Let me explain. The “big things” means serious spiritual battles. For instance, you’ve heard things like, “you think you’ll stand up for Christ and face martyrdom but you can’t get up in the morning and say morning prayers?” If you don’t exercise your spiritual muscles on a daily basis they’ll be so flabby you’ll crumble immediately when you encounter anything remotely difficult.

This accomplishes two things: it reframes refusing an extra bite of food as “a little thing”, not the end of the world, and it reframes the refusal as an ascetical exercise, the goal of which isn’t to lose weight, but to strengthen yourself spiritually.

You see, deep down I know it doesn’t really matter what I weigh. Sure, being overweight has earthly consequences, and I’m not discounting them, but they have finite motivational powers whereas spiritual consequences are eternal.

You see what I mean? If I’m thinking about this in a purely earthly way eventually I’m going to lose the argument but if I’m thinking of this as an ascetical exercise I have a lot more strength to draw upon.

Anyway, I’ve lost five pounds in a week (yes, includes water), but the most important part is I’ve stopped thinking of myself as a victim and more like an athlete (spiritual) in training. It’s all in the reframing.

15 thoughts on “Reframing

  1. Thank you. I needed this. Have you heard of Six Weeks to Sanity: Filled with Less? It’s helped me so much. Orthodox. Online. Simple. But it’s really good! Cynthia Damaskos, Molly Sabourin, Presbytera Stacey Dorrance. So good. There’s a Facebook page (I’m not on FB) and a community page on their website. It may help – it really is spiritual! Bless!

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  2. So… here is the thing. I am doing the same thing but my mom lost over 60 pounds in about a year and a half by eating three meals a day and two snacks. These need to be snacks heavy in protein, of course (not cookies etc.) I have issues with hypoglycemia so I can’t do the fasting etc but I finally agreed to try my mom’s way. I found an app on my phone and I now track that way (screwed up the last two days though!) and guess what! I lost five pounds in the first two weeks so I’m going to keep trying. The discipline sucks .. it goes but it’s worth it. My worry is that you need to be sure you’re eating enough calories for your weight. I’m sure you know that If we eat too few our bodies hold on to the fat because it thinks we are going into starvation mode. So, to start we have to set our calorie intake at at least 1500 a day (depending on weight and height.) all this to say — if you eat enough protein and that’s included in snacks, you shouldn’t feel hungry. However, I struggle finding the right things to eat and keeping the carbs down so there are times I still feel hungry. My brain fog has been acting up so If any of this sounds like a lecture or I’m saying you’re wrong it is totally unintentional! I’m just trying to share that we are on the same path right now and for very similar reasons! (Raises 🖐… I eat my stress, fear and depression!)

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  3. Abbot Nikon reinforces your reframing:

    “Battle with all, even the minutest, sins. He who is unfaithful in small things will not be trusted with more significant ones. The devil likes to suggest: “This is nothing, a trifle”; and about something more important: “How can we fight this? This is for ascetics.” Even in the very act of sinning one must appeal to the Lord and prostrate oneself before God without shame, saying: “Lord, see what I am doing, have mercy on me, help me free myself from the power of Satan!” ~ Abbot Nikon Vorobiev

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  4. I wrote a comment here the other day and somehow deleted it all. So, here I go again:

    After years of hating my weight gain but doing little to change it (besides working out), two years ago I started tracking my daily calories with myfitnesspal. I have always exercised, but during this time period I ramped up the amount of exercise. Most importantly though, I focused on my eating habits. Coincidentally, your weight loss a was a big motivator for me at that time. Although my weight loss was very gradual (about 1/2 to 1 pound/ week) I managed to lose over 40 pounds and have kept it off (so far). I still count my calories on and off because I really want to make sure I maintain this healthy weight. The whole time I kept my diet pretty much the exact same as it always was, only I started paying attention to the amounts of things. So, for example, I still eat chips and chocolate I just eat them in much smaller amounts.

    But to speak to the reframing: for me, I felt very guilty being overweight and so I tried hard to take on the challenges of losing/ maintaining my weight with a spiritual perspective, with an emphasis on self-control, rather than on looking a certain way. Now I feel a true sense of freedom because I’m not burdened by that crushing guilt. I eat a little of this and a little of that but I struggle, through the prayers of holy ones, to be disciplined and to stay committed to avoiding over-indulgence. For me the biggest motivator in maintaining my weight loss is this new sense of freedom. (Although I also love how much energy and mobility I have.)

    I love Abbot Nikon and that quote is great. We just need to focus on one meal at a time, one day at a time, as Gerontissa Makrina says, “God won’t ask us why we fell down but why we did not get back up.”

    You got this!

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  5. Thank you for this post! I have been carrying some extra weight on my frame since I weaned my last child (and hit a milestone birthday, moved to a more stressful environment, suffered minor health issues, etc.), and it has been frustrating. Seeing my struggle with self-control in a new light!

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