I started gaining weight around puberty, at a time when, annoyingly, I stopping gaining height. Every few years, I’d step on the scales, and go, “OMG! Must do something.”
And so I tried Weight Watchers, but counting calories made me feel a bit crazy. I tried faith-based diets, which don’t work too well on your own, and then a totally crazy, totally wonderful faith-based diet with a group at Grace Presbyterian Church, Williamsburg, Virginia, Gwen Shamblin’s Weigh Down Workshop, whose tenet was—really! really!!– eat anything you want, as much as you want, but only eat when you are hungry (as defined by a growling stomach), and stop when you are full. I rapidly lost 10 pounds on it, and would have lost more…but it’s surprisingly hard to eat only when you are physiologically hungry.
I tried Overeaters Anonymous and lost 6 pounds on it, but, sadly, strayed from its austere discipline once I stopped attending group meetings. I also found all the intense spiritual inventory stuff intensely difficult.
I tried the Atkins/South Beach, and lost weight on that too. According to the Metabolic Typing Diet, I am a protein type, rare among Asians apparently. I don’t gain weight on meat and fish metabolizing them easily, but rapidly gain weight on carbohydrates. So I had lots of duck, lamb, beef, pork, sausages and bacon, lost weight, and gained colon cancer. Now, that didn’t work out too well for me, did it? Bowel Cancer is a risk of Atkins/South Beach/Paleo diets.
After the shock of the diagnosis, and the pain of surgery, I reverted to the diet that all my research suggested was healthiest, the Nutritarian diet advocated by Joel Fuhrman, Dr Dean Ornish, Dr. Colin Campbell…basically fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes with limited carbs, some fish, limited diary, no meat. Following this diet, with cheats and breaks (for it is no easier to follow a diet than to follow Christ) I’ve gradually lost 22 pounds.
As far as I am concerned, this diet of fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts and legumes is The One True Diet.
But I have learned something from the failed and abandoned diets . Gwen Shamblin’s Weigh Down Diet offered the concept of eating when one is hungry, and stopping when one is full. I have learned to ask myself, “Am I hungry?” Atkins/South Beach taught me that starchy carbs, which I love, are my downfall, and to limit them. Overeaters Anonymous made me aware of the times I eat when I am not hungry.
Learning from failed and nutty diets? God is merciful like that.
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I am thinking about religions.
I believe Christianity is the One True Faith. I love several books of the Old Testament, but chiefly I love Jesus, and have discovered his way really works. Each time I obey him it’s like a great exchange from darkness, confusion, grumpiness and muddle to light, peace, guidance and joy.
But I also believe that God, that Jesus, is too kind and merciful to leave huge swathes of the world in darkness. So while there is One True Faith, I believe some of God’s goodness, light, and mercy shine on all who seek him, whether they have been taught to call him Jehovah, Rama, or Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
A sincere follower of Judaism has the treasures of the story of David, the Psalms, the Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the minor Prophets…great riches.
Islam requires prayer five times a day, a practice which apparently offers physical and mental health benefits. Muslims are forbidden to drink or gamble, which averts much family misery. Giving is a sacred duty, and this increases happiness, according to all happiness research. (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, though significantly poorer than Indians, are more generous, which leads to Pakistan and Bangladesh ranking higher than India in the UN’s World Happiness Rankings).
Buddhism has the blessings of meditation, Zen, and vegetarianism; Hinduism has yoga and meditation, and many Hindus are vegetarian, which is good for people, animals and the planet. Mormons, whose faith requires them to eschew alcohol, tobacco and coffee; limit meat, and fast once a month (giving the money to the poor) have a high life expectancy.
Because of the goodness of God, all the world religions I know something about reflect some of his goodness.
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But I am delighted to be a Jesus-follower. Following Jesus is, I am convinced, the One True Faith. Each year, I follow him, imperfectly, imperfectly, I can, at a moment’s notice, list ten reasons I am glad to be a Christ-follower, and why, oh, of course, following him is the One True Faith. The reasons expand and expand.
Today’s list of 10 randomly ordered reasons for why I believe following Jesus is the one true faith, the best way to live.
1 Because he said, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed,” and that saves me time and stress, and keeps me focused on what’s important.
2 Because he commanded us not to worry about anything at all, since the God who looks after the birds and flowers will look after us
3 Because he condensed the law and the prophets to one counter-intuitive principle –Love, which is good for the heart, better than vegetarianism. What’s more, he’s practical. What is love? Do to others what you would have them do to you
Because obeying Jesus’s command, “Do not judge,” saves us from futilely meditating on our grievances.
Because Jesus protects us from useless conflict by telling us to turn the other cheek. He’s so gentle. He said the meek inherit the earth. And in all sorts of ways, they do.
4 Because he was an early feminist. He thought sitting at his feet and listening to his teaching was taking the better path, offering Martha liberation from her kitchen. Store-bought pita and hummus would do just fine.
6 He was realistic about trouble, sin and suffering, and offered us ways to transcend them. “In the world you will have trouble, but in me, you will find peace.”
7 He told us the Holy Spirit was even better than he was, and that He would come, and the Spirit did, and was as life-changing as Jesus said he was
8 He is a genius. He tells us counter-intuitive things about life, and oh my goodness, he’s right. He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbled himself will be exalted. In the long run, it’s true, and in the short run–what peace, time and energy are saved!!
9 Delaying gratification is the only decent way to live, contemporary psychiatrist Scott Peck writes in The Road Less Travelled. Jesus said the same thing 2000 years ago, bluntly and memorably. “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. For whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses it will save it.” The grain of wheat, the comfortable old self, must be cracked open to come to new life.
10 He is treasure, and he offers treasure, though treasure found after searching and digging. “Joy, I give you. Peace, I leave you.”
Jesus is like a tardis. He gets bigger and bigger as you enter in, and in him is satisfaction for all our hungers and restlessness. “He who eats my flesh will never hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst,” he promised. His difficult mysterious ways, like a magic carpet, transport us to an exciting life, with magic and adventure.
Just words? Nope; experiment with obeying Jesus as closely as possible, and see what happens
Putting the words of Christ into practice immediately begins to bring truth, goodness, strength and beauty into our lives. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy.