I have been overweight for pretty much my whole adult life. It has spanned from “overweight” to “obese” according to the weight range breakdown by the experts. And for that whole duration, I have been on and off of diets, “eating plans” and a variety of other efforts to slim down and get healthier. However, I, like the humble yo-yo, rise and fall with predictability. Even as of late, it’s sort of a “suspended” situation – not really gaining, not really losing.
The reason for this confession is that in addition to being overweight, I always engaged in self-deprecating joking about my love for food, clothing size, you name it. Being funny and making jokes about my inability to discipline my body to stay at a decent and healthy weight somehow softened the edges of the harsh reality that I have a problem. It was much easier to approach the difficulties with my weight with humor than to put in the effort consistently enough to change it and keep it that way. I had to finally arrive at the point where I could acknowledge this and then admit it. It was preferable to joke about chairs not being “plus size friendly” or take jabs at myself so nobody else would have a chance. I wanted to control the jokes about my weight and my lack of discipline. I wasn’t giving anyone else an edge.
And so, I had successfully built a persona of being a husky gal who had a good sense of humor. I knew how to manage that, despite the fact that I wanted to be fit (not skinny) and healthy. Even once I started running, I liked being the fat girl who could run distances. Sure, I lost a little weight, but I took the opportunity to continue eating whatever I felt like since I was running. Therefore, I stayed husky enough to appear like a rockstar, running races, and funny enough to joke about it although I really hated being overweight.
It was preferable to joke about chairs not being “plus size friendly” or take jabs at myself so nobody else would have a chance.
I can’t say for sure at what point my behavior changed. However, at some point this year, I had a revelation that embracing the moniker of Zaftig Runner was actually a prison I had created for myself because I was avoiding the hard work of reversing my situation. My words, what I claimed aloud, had become a manifestation of what I really was.
In Matthew 15, Jesus is talking with the Pharisees, who are challenging him on the actions of His disciples. Part of his answer drops like an anvil of truth in my heart:
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Matthew 15:10-11
Although the context in my life was not the same as the passage, SHAZAAM! I am not defiled by the food I put in my mouth. I am defiled by the words I speak, particularly about myself. If I chose to speak differently, would my situation change? If I said “I am in control of my food choices and my exercise habits”, would it change my situation? I believe the answer is yes in light of this scripture.
Looking further, in the book of Luke, Jesus speaks of the importance of bearing good fruit, which seems to include good speech as well:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)
This goes for any situation we have in life that we resignedly and repeatedly verbalize. By repeatedly pronouncing defeat over our own lives, or the lives or our loved ones, we work against God’s liberating power by forecasting doom with our own lips. My advice is: don’t claim what you don’t want. If you want things to change, don’t keep cementing them into place with your words. Here are some of the things that you may be saying to imprison yourself without even realizing it:
“I have no self control.”
“I can’t get organized.”
“I’m so afraid of…”
“I have issues.”
“I don’t have patience for this.”
“I’ll never get out of debt.”
“I guess that’s never going to happen.”
And the list goes on and on. This negative self-talk doesn’t even address the ways in which we may speak to others that can perpetuate the very situations we want to change. Proverbs 18:21 says:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
This suggests that our tongues have the power to speak death and life (curses and blessings, bad and good, etc.). As in Luke 6:45, what comes out is issuing from the heart. If I speak negativity over my own life, it continues to take up residency in my heart, which should be full of the joy of the Lord. No wonder I feel conflicted or out of control when the Holy Spirit is battling with my tendency to maintain complacency and perpetuate failure through my use of negative words.
Friends, please don’t think I am preaching a sermon from my high horse. This is a lesson I am learning daily. I am slowly being liberated from the vice grip of negative talk about myself and others. An example is – the day I began writing this post, I absolutely overindulged in Halloween candy. I ate so much that I pushed the wrappers down into the trash because it such was an embarrassing number. Today, I had two small pieces and as I took them, I said – “I am in control. Two is enough.” And then I walked away. Small victories like this are the result of intentional decision making and self-talk. When things come up at work that are irritating, it is a conscious decision to hold my tongue or redirect the conversation. I’m not always successful. However, compared to a year ago, I am much more successful now.
So I will continue to focus on God, seeking His truth in the Word. It is easier to speak life and be positive when you can draw on the Word of God to do so. Cite scripture to yourself to help stay positive. Here are a few statements you can say and the scriptures that inspire them:
“I am the head and not the tail.” (Deuteronomy 28:13)
“I am not afraid because my God is with me.” (Joshua 1:9)
“I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:37)
“I can do all things I set my mind to.” (Philippians 4:13)
“I am chosen by God.” (John 15:16)
“I commit my goals to God and He will prosper them.” (Proverbs 16:3)
“I can speak life.” (Psalm 141:3)
If you want things to change, don’t keep cementing them into place with your words.
Your words carry power, both in the hearts and minds of others and within you. Choose wisely so that you may “speak life” to yourself and to those around you. Don’t claim what you don’t want. Instead, claim God’s mighty truth, which is not only available to you, but is yours if you simply choose to lay claim to it. Don’t be discouraged – it can take a long time to undo the negative patterns you have in place. God is able and as you seek and trust in Him, the old ways will be no more. He is doing a new thing – if you embrace it. Be blessed and speak life.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)