Weighty Matters

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But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
—1 Corinthians 9:27

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d spoken with several men who had become diabetic in their fifties. This, in part, prompted me to examine my own dietary habits and make some small corrections.

After one month on a low-glycemic diet, I’m 22 pounds lighter. I’m only three pounds from my target weight. That’s astonishing to me. One month.

A few other things boggle me:

  • I made only small changes in my diet.
  • I didn’t even do the tough first phase of the diet, but slid right into the maintenance phase.
  • The amount of energy I have right now is unbelievable.
  • I’m not craving snacks at all.
  • I’m eating less and not feeling hungry later on.
  • My wife tells me I’m sleeping better; I think she’s right. I’m no longer dragging by 5:00 p.m.
  • Anyone can do this if they so choose.

I’m not diabetic, nor was I overweight by more than a couple pounds (according to the BMI index, but then it’s a bit off for really massive guys like me). 'Got more chins than Chinatown...'But I felt run-down and lethargic at the weight I was. Now I’m right where I should be. Feels great.

What did I change? Well, all processed food pretty much got eliminated. This wasn’t hard because I eat a lot of natural foods anyway. I’ve been eating whole grains for more than 25 years, so I was ahead of that curve. I also eat organic meat and dairy as much as it’s possible. I don’t drink soft drinks except on rare occasions, so no sacrifice there. In the end, I mostly cut back on sugar and processed snack foods. I have a soft spot for baked goods, and that was the major sacrifice and probably the largest source of sugar in my diet. Goodbye, cookies!

As much as Splenda seems to be the non-sugar sweetener of choice, I prefer God’s sweeteners to man-made junk. I don’t need Splenda’s chlorine, a massive oxidizer, tearing up my cells. Instead, I’ve used luo han guo, agave nectar, and erythritol as my sweeteners. They all seem to do fine and have been readily available, though not cheap. Still, the benefits are obvious. If you want to know more about these three natural sweeteners, drop me an e-mail.

So I’m feeling great.

All this has a point, too.

I wrote earlier this week about our consumptive habits in the United States, habits that are wiping out a lot of us spiritually. Our addiction to consumerism breeds a spiritual malaise that blinds us to the needs of others and cuts us off from relationships, which ultimately—I believe—leads to depression and a lack of concern for the things of God.

What (and how) we eat forms part of that consumptive cycle that we Christians need to fix. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to possibly wind up a diabetic some day. It’s that I couldn’t let my own wants rule me. My desire to pack my plate had to end. My desire to ignore the four servings of Oreos in my hand needed to die. Sure, I ate mostly good stuff to begin with, but those few vices left me feeling drained.

And that’s the way it is in one’s spiritual life. That small thing which is anti-God will inevitably own us, only to destroy us later. You can take that spiritual principle to the bank. I wouldn’t even have space to quote all the Scriptures that allude to that truth, so God must think it important.

The strangest thing of all about losing this weight is that I have more of a thirst for God than ever before. I’m not going to go so far as to say that some Doritos now and then impaired my spiritual life, but I’m not going to say it didn’t, either. No one has to let anything rule them other than the Lord, and His yoke is easy, His burden light.

I’ve always thought the following quote comes truly God-inspired. Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles, wrote this:

Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.

I would personally substitute “spirit” for “mind” in that wisdom, but the point remains.

If a time of testing hunkers on the horizon for the Church, we can’t be a bunch of couch potatoes, either spiritually or physically. Living a sober life means we’re ready at a moment’s notice for what the Lord desires of us. God has always told his people to be alert and ready. But if we’re so fried because of what we eat or what we own or what we let control us that’s not of God, then what chance do we of being ready for whatever God would ask us to do?

We Christians cannot become so plugged into our electronics, so obsessed with the material, so stuffed to the gills with garbage food that we’ll be asleep from overconsumption when the Lord knocks on the door and asks that we follow Him where He’s leading us.

Folks, we’ve got to cut the ties that bind us. Those ties come in a number of bright, shiny packages, all of which diminish us. I know what mine are, and I’m learning every day how to sever them for the sake of the King and the Kingdom.

So what’s holding you back?

25 thoughts on “Weighty Matters

  1. Diane Roberts

    Now don’t all of you people feel ashamed to have called us health-conscious Californians “fruits and nuts?” I don’t hear you laughing any more…:)

    • Diane,

      But here’s the chastening part about health-conscious California. When we were in our church services in the school we met in, we could see hundreds of people go by the large windows in the school as they hiked, joked, walked, biked and everything else Sunday morning. See, for those people, being health-conscious was their religion. That’s the big difference.

      I still saw plenty of overweight people in the Christian churches in CA, though not as many as here in the Midwest.

      But for all those health-conscious joggers forsaking church on Sunday in CA, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to do everything possible to save one’s temporary body if the eternal soul is bound for everlasting punishment! Seems those health-conscious folks have the largest part of that healthiness factor wrong.

      Better that we Christians lead the way in health-consciousness of both body AND soul!

      • Amy Heague

        To right!! Last week I finaly cracked & took fresh responsibility for my health (it was low on my priority list – funny that!). Being a young mother of 3 & Assistant pastor with my husband, we are very busy people (love it!) but stress began to take a toll on my health, my emotions & trickled down to my spiritual life as well – funny how we can avoid our physical health & think all else will be okay. anyway… guess what the Naturopath has recommended – low-glycemic diet. Drop some weight, get control of my health. So simple really, but something I have avoided for TOO long .
        So pray with me that I have the conviction to stick to it!!!

        • Amy,

          I feel far less stressed. And I have energy to burn (though I think I’m coming down with a cold of some kind today). I’ve been jogging along at times on my normal walks around my farm and it doesn’t phase me like jogs used to. I don’t feel heavy, either.

          So God’s fortune on that low-glycemic diet! The surp[rise will be how easy it is to stick to. Do it right and you don’t crave bad snacks. I’m not missing what I left out.

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  3. Dave Block

    Way to go, Dan! I want to lose about 25 pounds myself.

    I lost about 15 pounds early this year, much of it by working out at the gym. Not wanting to waste that effort made me eat better. Then summer came and trips to the pool with family replaced my workout time. It’s not right thinking, but not working out hurt my motivation to eat better. Even with the passing of summer, I haven’t found much time to work out, so my slide is continuing.

    My wife is a very good cook and doesn’t have to worry much about her weight because she’s breastfeeding, so I get too much of a good thing at home!

    • Dave,

      Want to hear the craziest part of all this?

      I’ve not changed my exercising habits at all. In fact, since the weather’s been lousy here lately, I’ve done less exercise than normal. I still get to the Y on weekends and still walk my property, but I’ve not increased my exercising at all. Nada.

      It’s mostly about diet. Eating smaller portions of better foods while avoiding sugar and starch. That’s it. Anyone can do it. Ditch the processed foods completely (with an allowance or two now and then) and eat right. My diet was always good. Now it’s great.

  4. David Riggins

    I wonder if Christians would consider that overeating is in the same vein as homosexuality? We all of us have something that is our weakness; our “thorn in the flesh”. The question is what we do with it. Do we shrug and say “well, that’s the way God made me” or do we seek to overcome this weakness by Gods grace? We can’t catagorize sin.

    • Ray

      I second that question from Matt. I’ve put on about 20 lbs in the last 4 years (since my last marathon, believe it or not) and I’d like to get back to that without logging 45+ miles per week.

      Thanks for you blog, Dan. I’m always challenged by your thoughts and writing.

    • Matt, Ray, et al.,

      I’m following a low-glycemic diet (also called a low g.i. diet). Google that or search for books at amazon on those terms and you’ll find much of what you need to know.

      The goal of a low-glycemic diet, a diet often advised for diabetics and people with blood sugar issues, is to keep from spiking your blood sugar. Glucose spikes lead to crashes that tell your body it needs to eat again. It also puts your body in a constant state of storing what you eat, compounding the problem of weight gain. By evening out blood sugar and preventing spikes, the body doesn’t go through bing and store phases. It also prevents the development of “Syndrome X,” a precursor to Type II diabetes.

      All this made sense to me, especially given the American propensity to eat too much sugar. Cutting back on that makes a huge difference simply in itself. And sugar (or high-fructose corn syrup) is in just about everything anymore.

      The way scientists determine the glycemic index for a food is by giving a set weight of a food to volunteers and testing their blood sugar at intervals after eating the test food. Pretty simple science. They note the blood sugar response and assign it a value.

      What you have to watch out for is that an older table of info using white bread as a standard base exists. Its numbers will be different from those that use glucose (which makes more sense) as the basis. It pays to know this standard before comparing numbers between GI charts. Those indexes will have most foods between 10 and 150. An attempt has been made to reconcile all the different standards and testing methods by assigning a “glycemic load” value which goes from zero on up to about 30. Obviously, in both cases, lower is better. Just something to know if you start seeing different numbers between different charts. The glycemic load figure is probably your safest common number.

      Hundreds of glycemic index sites exist on the Web. Just Google “glycemic index” or “glycemic load” and you’ll find them. The major source is The Glycemic Index (http://www.glycemicindex.com), but I find it hard to use, plus it comes out of Australia so it features a lot of foods/brands we don’t have here. The GI listing (http://www.gilisting.com/) is easier to scan, but its results can be slightly confusing since it shows ranges of GI. The fact is that foods will have ranges based on a number of factors, so while this won’t always answer the question perfectly.

      Here’s the crib sheet:

      1. The less processing, the better. For instance, though beans are good, dried beans are better than those that have been cooked and canned afterwards. Raw veggies and fruits are almost always lower GI than their cooked counterparts. The closer a food item is to its natural state, the better.

      2. When checking carbs, the best way to figure carb loads is to compare the ratio of total carbohydrates against dietary fiber. The carbs in dietary fiber basically do not count since they are indigestible. So if something had 20g of carbs, but 10g was dietary fiber, that food would almost always have a far lower GI than something that was 20g/2g.

      3. Rices and breads are a big problem since their GI varies widely. Believe it or not, Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice is one of the lower GI rices you can eat. Long-grained wild rices are almost always better than white, but they are rushing to develop lower GI white rices. For breads, the darker the bread and the less it relies on wheat as the main flour, the better. GI also varies based on how coarse the flour is (because spending longer being digested in the body lowers the GI and prevents the blood sugar spike). Sprouted grain breads and those that rely on oat, barley, and rye flour usually are lower GI. The more fiber they have, the better. Genuine pumpernickel bread that is mostly rye flour is about the best bread you can eat and is quite low on the GI scale. Finding real German pumpernickel bread is more difficult than it sounds. Most pumpernickel you can buy is an American version that’s primarily white flour dyed dark.

      4. Nuts and seeds are a great snack food. I’ve been keeping a mix of cashews, peanuts, roasted soybeans, macadamias, sunflower seeds, natural almonds, and yogurt-covered almonds as a snack food. Very low GI, even with the sugar in the yogurt-covered almonds, which provide a nice balance in the mix. Can’t keep my wife out of that mix, though!

      5. Cheeses are usually okay, but you still need to watch the fat. Laughing Cow spread cheese is low fat. I eat sandwiches with that cheese, some hummus, and some nitrite-free turkey lunch meat on thin-sliced dark rye. Works great. A few low carb crackers exists, too. We like eating cheeses on low-carb crackers with chili, which is a great low-GI food because the beans in it are high in fiber.

      6. Low-glycemic diets are stricter on fats than Atkins is. (Sounds like you’re doing something akin to Atkins if you’re eating Whoppers without the bun!) The South Beach Diet is closer to the low-glycemic ideal. Fish and chicken are better than beef and pork. Meat has no real effect on blood sugar, but it’s still wise to keep the fats lower.

      7. Sugar is bad if added. Natural sugars that are bound up in fiber are not. This is why raw fruits are usually fine. Dried fruits are sometimes okay, but prunes and dates are absolute no-nos on the GI index. Check the charts. Some sweet foods are medium GI, like ice cream. Supposedly the way the sugars mix with the proteins and fats in the dairy prevents the sugar from spiking your blood glucose levels. So a little ice cream now and then is fine. I’ve heard that semi-sweet dark chocolate is also okay in small quantities (although I overdid that as my reward and, when combined with all the tea I drink, gave myself a nice kidney stone earlier this week. Bad. Very bad!)

      That’s the way I go about it.

      As for the natural sweeteners I mentioned, here’s the info:

      The luo han guo I purchased is made by Wisdom Herbs and is called Sweet & Slender. Many natural food stores stock Wisdom Herb’s products. (They also make stevia products, a natural sweetener with some lingering questions–I’ve avoided it.) While luo han guo is totally natural, very low glycemic (like 20 on the index, with just a couple calories) and 300 times sweeter than sugar, it has an artificial aftertaste to it. In tea, it has the strange effect of not seeming to mix with the flavor of the tea, its sweetness coming in after the tea taste. Curiously, its sweetness lingers on your tongue long after you’re done consuming it. Least favorite of the three here. Plus, the primary extract comes from China, so I grilled the company about their testing facilities after the Chinese food scare this summer. They seemed to be up on that, but one never knows. I’m not sure of its use in cooking, either.

      The agave nectar comes from a company called Wholesome Sweeteners, which is actually a sugar cane company. Their primary product is raw cane sugar. Agave is a cactus relative. My understanding is the sugar in the agave nectar is a sucrose/fructose blend, but the molecules are longer chained, which means the body doesn’t break them down as quickly, thus no huge blood sugar spike. Wholesome Sweeteners’ nectar comes in a low-heat processed “raw” version that I understand tastes a little like honey with some molasses in it, and a “light” version treated at a higher temperature and filtered. The light is the kind I’ve purchased. I find it to be like a thin honey in taste and consistency. It’s actually 25 percent sweeter than sugar pound for pound. It has sixty calories per serving. It substitutes perfectly for sugar in all things.

      The erythritol I purchased is also from Wholesome Sweeteners, going by the name Organic Zero. Their version is made from their organic sugar cane stock. That makes it unique because sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and others can come from a number of botanical sources, including wood chips (yuck). Erythritol is pretty amazing in that it has virtually no calories and is zero on the glycemic index. On the tongue, the crystals taste exactly like sugar. Unlike the other sugar alcohols, which are similar in calories and g.i., erythritol won’t give you gas. It pretty much goes through your body untouched. Erythritol occurs naturally in a number of foodstuffs and has been highly tested for safety. It’s drawback is that it’s not as sweet as sugar, only 70 percent, so you have to use more of it to get the same taste as sugar. Plus, while it does bake, it reacts with water differently in baked goods and can alter their texture.

      Buying:

      I purchased the Sweet & Slender (luo han guo) at a natural food store, which you can locate in your area from Wisdom Herbs. It cost about $10 for fifty packets, each packet equivalent to two packets of sugar.

      The agave nectar I’ve purchased from Kroger and Meijer. In Meijer, it was in the regular sweeteners section. In Kroger, in the sweetener part of their organic section. Amazon has it in big batches, though, and that’s the way I plan to buy it in the future (though some people say it sometimes arrives from Amazon leaking from some of the bottles). I got both bottles from the grocery stores for $4.49 for just under 12 oz. Amazon is cheaper.

      The erythritol I also got from Kroger. It can be purchased online from Amazon, too, though not at quite the discount as the agave nectar. That Wholesome Sweetener’s Organic Zero version is organic and based on their sugar cane stock appeals to me more. I realize that may not matter to some people, but you may not know from what plant source other companies may be deriving their versions. I predict that erythritol is going to be huge. Beverage industry analysts are saying that Coke and Pepsi are going to get on-board the erythritol train. I suspect that will mean more will be produced and the price will come down. I paid $9 for 35 packets, but Amazon has 24 ozs in two 12 oz packs for about $23. (At Amazon, erythritol from a vitamin supplement company called NOW Foods is even cheaper at about $6 for a pound, though I have no idea of their source or quality control.) I think that would last for a while if you’re not using it for baking. Stick with the agave nectar for baking and perhaps cut in a little erythritol to lower the calories and g.i. even further.

      I hope this helps. I purchased all of these easily. I think you’ll be able to also.

  5. Normandie

    Why don’t you use honey? We usually eat the things you’ve mentioned, but I prefer honey as my sweetener. Is this problematic?

    Thanks,
    Normandie

    • Normandie,

      I would suspect that honey would be fine in small amounts—so long as we didn’t get any other sugar in our diet. The problem is, we do. Tons of it, often in hidden sources. We’ve even bred many of our vegetables (corn, for instance) to be far sweeter than would be normal.

      Honey comes in at 85 on the glycemic index (where glucose =100). Sucrose (table sugar) is 70. Anything above 50 is frowned upon. I believe the agave I mentioned is 35 or 40, so it’s about half what the sucrose and honey are. Erythritol is zero on the index, and luo han guo is 20 (though I’m not sure why it registers at all).

  6. I think that would last for a while if you’re not using it for baking . Stick with the agave nectar for Baking and perhaps cut in a little erythritol to lower the calories and g.i. even further.

  7. Great post, Dan. I don’t know how I missed it back in December. I put myself on a low-carb diet several years ago and shortly discovered that my crohn’s symptoms disappeared. As a result, I took myself off all medication for crohn’s and the only time I have experienced flares since then have been when I have been too liberal in my eating and resumed consuming too many carbs – baked goods, particularly breads – and my last colonoscopy revealed that my colon looked the best it ever has.

    Crohn’s aside, I know that eating too much or eating the wrong foods make me lethargic, lazy, and unproductive. Hardly the way to live to the glory of God!

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