Finally after about three and a half minutes, my lunch companion brought her grace to an end. She simply looked up at me and said, “Oh, this looks good,” and began eating. Well, I just could not resist asking her what on earth she was doing in her prayer. She replied, “You see, I’m having a little challenge with my weight. And I realize that food doesn’t make me fat, but there are fat demons in the food that try to make me fat. So I was just casting out the fat demons. That way I can eat whatever I want without gaining excess weight.”
I thought to myself, “This is about the most bizarre thing I have ever heard.” But without trying to be judgmental, I very light-heartedly said, “I’m afraid this kind (of demon) only comes out by prayer and fasting.” Then we discussed the biblical account of the time when Jesus’ disciples had trouble casting a demon out of a boy. So when Jesus cast the demon out, his disciples asked why they could not. Of course, Jesus’ response was, “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21).
After a rather lengthy discussion, I was able to help the young woman to understand that you cannot control weight through casting out “fat demons.” You see, I found out that the woman had been casting out fat demons for about two years. But the grim reality was that she was still over her desired weight level. I looked straight in the woman’s eyes and said, “A demon is not interested in possessing food. He is only interested in possessing a person.” But, one thing is sure: you cannot cast out a “fat demon.” You can bind fat in a girdle. You can cover it with loose fitting clothes. You can wear patterns that camouflage it. You can laugh about it, joke about it, and learn to walk around holding it in. Or you can ignore it, but you cannot hide it!
When people have eating disorders or food addictions, they do not have a problem with demons in their food, they have a problem with uncontrolled internal desire. In other words, when our internal controls are functioning properly, we have no problem controlling our external influences. You may have a problem with your genetic build. You may have a problem with your metabolic speed. You may even have a problem with certain glands which help regulate weight. But you do not have a problem with a “fat demon.”
Is it really fair to assign the devil responsibility for everything that we do not discipline ourselves to control? I am the first to concede that there are a few extreme cases where complete demonic possession precludes a person from controlling his actions. Yet this type of person is perhaps the only one who could justifiably say, “The devil made me do it!” (like comedian Flip Wilson used to say in the '70s). So then the rest of the population, which is not demon possessed, must take responsibility for its own actions. Despite the tragedies and horrors of our background and experiences, we can control ourselves! No matter how challenging our present circumstances are, we can control how we respond to them! We may not be able to control the actions of others, but we can at least control our reactions to others.
I have never had a problem accepting overweight people. So whatever I say about getting a grip on your appetite is not intended to condemn, criticize nor humiliate. It is merely to help, exhort and instruct. Not only am I trying to help the overweight, but also the average weight and underweight who also have problems with appetite control. You see, I realize that many gluttons are not fat! And being fat does not necessarily mean unhealthy, just as being thin does not necessarily imply health. Of course, being grossly overweight is unhealthy. I do not believe that you should allow standard charts to define what is right for you. You are a unique individual. Just because you may be 5’7” tall, does not mean you should weigh the same as another person of the same height. You have a different genetic make-up and a different bone structure. So there may be quite a variation from person to person. However, if you do have a problem controlling your appetite (whether you eat too much or too little), you can do something about it! In some cases you may need medical assistance, but generally you can do something about your situation!
One of the first things that overweight people tend to do about their situation is to use euphemisms to make their status sound more palatable. So the term “fat” becomes “obese.” “Fat” becomes “overweight.” “Fat” becomes “love handles.” “Fat” becomes “full-figured.” Among other things “fat” becomes “pleasantly plump, healthy, and big-boned.” You can change the name all you want, but the result will not change. So please do not be offended when I use the term “fat.”
When you think about it, what was the very first thing that got Adam and Eve in trouble (Genesis 3:1-6)? It was food. What did they eat? Forbidden fruit. It was forbidden because it would be detrimental to their life. What was the bartering tool that Jacob used to deceive Esau out of his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34)? It was food, a bowl of lentil beans. Food has contributed to the downfall of many. The night Babylon fell, Belshazzar threw a big feast which turned into a drunken brawl (Daniel 5:1-31). Even Eli’s sons were killed because they loved fat and would steal it from the sacrifices of the Lord (I Samuel 2:27-34). I honestly think they were gluttons. They were out of control. As a result, they had to die. The Lord told Eli that he would judge his house “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not (I Samuel 3:13).”
I believe gluttony in any form, whether with eating or drinking, is sinful. Remember Adam and Eve were charged with sin because they allowed their appetites to supersede obedience to the Lord. With gluttony, you lose control of yourself. As I often say, when you lose control, the devil finds it. So if you are out of control in some area of your life, you should not judge others who are out of control in certain areas of their lives. By this, I mean anyone who cannot control how much he eats is not in a position to criticize or condemn anyone who cannot control how much he drinks. You may argue and say, “At least I’m not hurting anybody when I overeat.” But the truth is that gluttony does hurt someone, it hurts you! You get sick. Then your family suffers with you. Your job suffers. Your income suffers. The insurance company suffers. And ultimately, the other policy holders suffer with higher premiums.
America is perhaps the most over-fed nation in the world. We are digging our own graves with our teeth. I believe diet-related illnesses kill more people than all the illegal drugs combined. As a result of ministering to thousands over the years, I have discovered that more people die and are sick from excess weight and a lack of discipline in their appetite than from any other source. This is why one of the first things the doctor will do after a thorough physical exam is to restrict your diet. Based on your diagnosis, the doctor will tell you, “No fried foods. No salt. No sodas. No alcohol. No sugar. No eggs. No red meats. No fats, greases or oils.” You see, when we abuse things, we lose things. We no longer eat just to nourish our bodies. We eat to celebrate, entertain and placate our sweet tooth. We eat too much of the wrong types of food. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? We have simply lost control of the situation. Things have gotten out of hand (our hands). But thank God we can put it back in His hands. You know, when man was created from the dirt of the earth, he was given dominion and authority over all the earth. When you think about it, all our food comes from the earth. Our vegetation, fruits, nuts and grains come from the earth. Even the animals we eat are herbivores (vegetarians). We are to rule and have dominion over the earth and everything in it! But we have allowed the earth and its products to take dominion over us. Now many are at the mercy of tobacco (cigarettes), marijuana, cocaine, heroine, and alcohol, which all come from the earth. Even simple things like cocoa beans and coffee beans dominate us. Some people cannot control the urge to have something chocolate in their mouth. Others cannot get going for the day without their morning cup of coffee. We allow the earthly elements, that we are supposed to have dominion over, to dictate to us when to eat and drink and how much.
When you do not understand who you are or what authority you possess, the earth and life’s situations will always rule you. Either you change the circumstances or the circumstances will change you! Sometimes you may not know why you are eating. All you know is that you have a taste for something. At times you really may be hungry for love or attention, but you try to fill that craving with food. So while you are trying to get a grip on your appetite, you should also try to improve your personal relationships.
If you really want help in controlling tendencies toward gluttony, I have a few suggestions. First, keep yourself occupied with wholesome activities. Budget time to read the Bible, pray and study material that will help you to be a better person. The Bible teaches that “an idle soul shall suffer hunger (Prov. 19:15).” The soul is comprised of the mind, the will and the emotions. So it is good to keep your mind busy, your will exercised and your emotions filled with love and joy. You can notice that idle people are hungry people. When you are not busy, you tend to think more about food. But sometimes when you really have a lot of work that you want to accomplish, you can work right through lunch without realizing it. So when you learn to keep yourself occupied, you do not have as much of a problem with food cravings. Anyway, a craving is a sign that you have a deficiency of a vital nutrient. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, she craved a bizarre mixture of orange juice mixed with ice cream. My wife did not realize that this was a legitimate craving until I convinced her to try the mixture after she had the baby. She tried it and did not like it! But obviously there was some nutritional value in the orange juice and ice cream that the baby needed.
The second key to getting a grip on your appetite is to eat to satisfy hunger, not to stuff yourself. “The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want (Prov. 13:25).” You either eat till you are satisfied and quit or you go beyond that point and satiate yourself. We normally go beyond satisfaction because everything tastes so good. Sometimes we go beyond satisfaction because we do not want to waste money. Other times, perhaps, it is because we were trained as children to eat everything on our plates. Regardless of how you were raised, if you discover that something you are doing is detrimental, stop it and change!
The third key is to make a determination, as an act of your will, to set limits for your appetite. The wisdom of the proverbs encourages us to “...put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite (Prov. 23:2).” I like to paraphrase that verse this way: “If thy appetite offend thee, slit thy throat.” Certainly no one should take that literally! I believe that verse is telling you to put as much pressure on yourself to control your appetite as the point of a knife pressing on your throat would. Discipline is the salient factor. Over-indulgence is the problem. “It is not good to eat much honey [sweets] (Prov. 25:27).” But it is a good idea to “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh [meat] (Prov. 23:20).” In other words, these two verses warn against too many sweets and too much meat!
A fourth practical suggestion in controlling your appetite is never eat to feed depression. When you are depressed, you lose your emotional stability. Your thinking is not fully rational. You develop a rather insouciant, apathetic attitude. You let all your guards down. If you are depressed, call a friend who can make you feel better. Read something inspirational. Look at a comedy show. Go to church. Try anything wholesome, but do not resort to eating to make you feel better. Try exercising or helping someone who is less fortunate. Sometimes it will help to just make yourself bless the Lord and praise His name! I tell you, rejoicing releases joy! Joy is better than food any day, especially when you are not suffering from genuine hunger. “All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast (Prov. 15:15).” You can feast off your joy! Eat when you are happy. Your food will be a feast to you, even if it is crackers and water! Furthermore, if you are happy, it will digest much easier. That is why “Better is the dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith (Prov. 15:17).”
A few years ago, I went to the house of a fellow minister to pray for his healing. Upon entrance of his house, I discerned that he needed to make adjustments in three areas of his life. First I told him, “You have bitterness in your heart toward your wife that you need to resolve and release.” He nodded his head and turned his face to the wall, putting his hand over his mouth and nose. He wept silently. Secondly, I said, “You have not been accountable with finances, neither in the church nor in your home. You must cease stealing through negligence and poor accounting practices.” Thirdly I said, “Unless you drastically change your diet, you will be dead before this year is out.” Without any exaggeration, he was already well over 500 pounds! I do not know the measure of his success in the first two areas. But his wife told me, “He will not eat anything wholesome. He wants everything fried and greasy.” Within six months this man, in his early 40s, was dead due to problems associated with his obesity. I realize I cannot help everybody. I help whom I can. You may not be able to help others , but you can do something about yourself!
I believe the perfect place to start anything is with self. Self is the one area over which we have responsibility and control. There is no need in my discussing anything I cannot change. My philosophy is simple: Do what you can with what you have. Use what you have. You have a will, a mind, a body, a spirit, creativity, imagination, determination, intuition, enthusiasm, talents galore, integrity and the list goes on. But most of us do not even scratch the surface of our hidden potentials, our capped capabilities, our untapped strengths nor our unused resources. Yet within every obese person, there is a slimmer person aching to get out. Within every sloppy person is a neat person who wants to use his innate skills of organization. Within every timid man is a lion who roars to express himself. We, like a sculptor, simply have to be willing to remove valuable chunks of our marble until an image of who we really are surfaces. Then others will discover the fascinating work of art that was within us all along.
Change is what we need when we are out of control in a certain area of our life. That is all the sculptor does with his hunk of stone or marble. He changes it until it looks like the image that he has in his mind. We must do the same thing. We keep changing until we externalize what we have internalized. But keep in mind that change is progressive. We do not abruptly change from “A” to “B.” Going from “A” to “B” may require 10 different changes before you get to “B.”
Sometimes we need a stimulus in order to make us change. A group of kids making fun of a fat lady may provide the needed initiative to changing her mind about her eating and exercise habits. For another fat lady it may take growing out of many of her clothes and the expense of new clothes which spark the change. Yet in order for another fat lady to change, her doctor may have to tell her that her life is in jeopardy. Even a failed romantic relationship can be used as a catalyst for change. So when adversity or ridicule happens to you, do not get mad, get smart — and change! I do not recommend changing to suit others. That can make you very unstable. Change to suit yourself and your God. Whatever it takes to motivate change in you, use it! This book can do it! The right message on a cassette can do it. Attending a certain kind of a seminar can do it. A dynamic church service can do it. Whatever impetus you need, get it and use it!
Do you feel as if you are dealing with a “fat demon” in some area of your life? Remember that fat is not a demon. I believe it is a tangible, physical substance or condition that you can generally do something about if you really want to. Fighting fat may be a real war for you, but you can be victorious if you fight with the right strategy. As you begin your fight, it is important to realize that spiritual warfare is done in the spirit just as physical warfare is done in the flesh. However, out of a disciplined spirit comes a disciplined mind. And out of a disciplined mind comes a disciplined body. Therefore, if you believe the right things (concerning your body) in your spirit, you will think the right way (concerning your body) in your mind. Of course, how you think will determine how you will act with your body. So I intend to impact your spirit with things that will change your thinking, and hence, your actions. But please understand that change will not just happen. We set our wills for change. I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Murdock who says, “If you want something you have never had, you must do something you have never done.”
Let today be an identifying mark for a change in your life. Getting started is the first battle you must fight. Sticking to the battle through perseverance is the pivotal point of the entire war. Then getting finished is the culminating battle that will bring you victory! Start slowly. Build momentum and establish good habit patterns. Soon you will be in store for a glorious and rewarding finish. It is always hard in the beginning, but that phase will pass. “The only place that you start out on top is when you are digging a hole,” was the advice of a friend of mine. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
Step by step is the way we walk to the reward of a disciplined, more organized life. We gradually transform our thinking, which gradually transforms our life. Yes, little by little a “fat mentality” is transformed into a “slim mentality.” You see, a “fat mentality” feels compelled to eat everything on the plate. Whereas a “slim mentality” will eat until it is satisfied and request a carry-out container. The “slim mentality” knows when to quit! When a very successful gambler was asked the secret of his success, he replied, “When I’m hot, I’m hot. And when I’m not, I quit!” It is vital for us to know that moderation and balance are imperative for success in any area. Plainly, we must learn when to quit!
When you think about a delectable piece of cake, you do not think in terms of how tasty the eggs are or the flour or the milk or the sugar is. You think about the cake as a blend of all the ingredients which gives pleasure to your taste buds. But it is the proper balance of the ingredients that makes the cake good. Too much salt, baking soda, nutmeg, or vanilla extract will throw off the balance of the whole cake. Then people will say, “That cake was too rich and spicy.”
Not only must there be a perfect blend of ingredients, the environment must be right for your cake to turn out right. With all the right ingredients, you can bake your cake too fast or for too long and dry it out. So when you try a new regimen, take your time, not only to get the right ingredients, but to make sure the environment is right. You may have a fabulous health plan to get a grip on your weight, but your environment may not be proper. You may have the best diet plan and exercise plan, but you cannot stay with it because your environment is wrong. Sometimes the privacy of your home is the wrong environment for you to try to exercise. You may need to get out to a gym where other people are exercising in order for you to be motivated by your environment. Otherwise, you will have hundreds of dollars worth of exercise equipment just sitting in your home getting rusty. The key to your program of change “baking “ correctly may be establishing a friendship with someone who has done or is trying to do a similar thing. You see, success attracts success. Money draws money. So if you plan to go anywhere, get with someone who is going somewhere.
Cast out your “fat mentality” and slip into something a little more comfortable. Make up your mind to get a grip on yourself! Make a daily effort to consciously crucify the “fat man” within! It will get hard sometimes, but we must be harder. It is hard because most things with high percentages of saturated fat are good to us. But what we must keep in focus is: Not everything that is good to us, is good for us! So we must learn to be very discriminating about what and how much we ingest and imbibe.
To make changes for better personal discipline, you will need to set objectives for yourself. Set your objectives first. Don’t just say “My, my, I sure have gained a lot of weight. I need to go on a diet.” You see, talk alone will never change your situation. If the circumstances of your life are going to change, you will be the one to put that change in motion by your own determination! It is totally within your jurisdiction to set the objectives for your life.
Objectives give a sense of direction to your life. Your objectives tell you where you want to go or what you want to achieve. An objective is very broad, so you will need to set goals to achieve your objectives. Goals are more specific. They are your practical plans of actions to realize your objectives. I believe the major difference between an objective and a goal is that a goal is measurable. You may set an objective by stating, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds.” Next, you set your goals for how you will achieve these goals by stating something like, “I will jog five miles every morning from 6-7 a.m. I will drink a gallon of water daily and eat three meals of 350 calories or less. Hence, I will lose two pounds per week for five consecutive weeks.” Now those are specific goals for reaching the broad objective of losing 10 pounds. You can very easily measure the progress of those goals by checking to see if you are doing them daily. But without goals, you cannot measure the progress of an objective. Simply stated, an objective tells you what you want to achieve, whereas a goal tells you how to achieve it.
Have you set definite objectives for your life? Is it your objective to take authority over the “fat demons” in your life? Have you set specific goals to determine a systematic plan of action? Have you assigned high priority to achieving your objective? These are just a few questions you should ask yourself. Of course, objectives should not be established independently of prayer. Your objectives should also be consistent with biblical principles. Remember to delight yourself in the Lord so that He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). But although God has objectives for your life, He leaves considerable room for all your objectives that are harmonious with His.