Have you guys seen the show "My 600-lb Life" that comes on TLC? I am ridiculously obsessed with it. I will watch reruns, marathons, and cannot miss a new episode. These people, all of whom are at least 600 pounds, allow a camera crew to follow them for a year as they journey to lose weight through Gastric Bypass Surgery. It is riveting and heart-wrenching, and I cannot look away.
Many of them begin as prisoners of their own beds and houses, unable to stand or walk more than a few steps on their own. They are often reliant on a caretaker and can do very little for themselves, including bathing and, ironically, cooking. So often, there is a fascinating dependent relationship where a caretaker becomes an enabler, cooking extremely unhealthy meals or bringing in unlimited fast food. I'm no psychologist, but the psychology in that fascinates me and could be another post.
For some of the people featured, the end of the year means many pounds lost and regained independence. For others, though, the surgery is unsuccessful because they never face the real reasons they gained such weight in the first place.
I'm fascinated by this show for many reasons, but I think the greatest is that it's not really about weight. Absolutely, being hundreds of pounds overweight is, at some level, a weight issue, but at the core, the issue is much greater than just food and exercise. It's about more than just calories consumed and inactivity.
For so many of the men and women on this show, a trauma or tragedy earlier in life was the starting point of their battle with weight. Failed relationships, sexual abuse, divorce, neglect as children... There is always more to the story than just food. There is always a deeper issue. Even for those who did not face an extreme tragedy, there is still an emotional component. They eat because they cannot handle stress; they eat because they feel alone; they eat because food is where they get their greatest pleasure. The external pounds are just the visible symbol of the internal struggle.
I am not 600 pounds. I am not overweight, and I have never been one to turn to food when life gets hard - I do the opposite. But make no mistake. I, too, have a 600 pound life. In fact, most of us do.
See, here's the thing. For every person, there are internal struggles that, even if others know they exist, they don't understand the depth of what those struggles do to us. There are emotional hardships that consume and devastate us but that remain unknown to even those who know us best. And those internal hardships - please get this - if not surrendered and submitted to the Lord, will always manifest themselves externally as well. For some, it's food and weight. For some, it's alcoholism. For others, it's anger or pornography or excessive shopping or work or a myriad of other things we do to avoid dealing with the reality that begs to be faced.
The external manifestation of the inner struggle is sin. It's just not always obvious sin.
For the 600 pound people, the excess pounds are obvious. We can see them and judge them and feel superior because we don't have (and can't understand) that struggle. But friends, if we have unconfessed sin that we refuse to face or struggles that we try to cope with through external means, we are spiritually and emotionally 600 pounds as well. We are just as obese and just as sick and just as in need of help as those people we gape at and watch featured on a popular TV show.
It's not politically correct to address obesity as sin. But handling our stresses and struggles with anything other than Jesus is sinful, and that includes food - both too much and too little of it. My struggles with undereating and over-exercising are just as sinful as overeating and under-exercising. My reacting in anger because I'm emotionally depleted is just as sinful as overeating or using drugs or sleeping too much to escape reality. However you and I try to handle life on our own, without surrender to Christ, is sin. Let's call it what it is and refuse to let it be the story of our lives.
I am always so sad for the 600 pound people who have lost years of their lives. They have been recluses trapped behind walls and imprisoned in mountains of flesh. They talk about wanting to leave the house and walk out into the sunshine, and when they finally do, the joy on their faces is unbelievable. Can you see that you and I are also missing out on years of our lives? Maybe not physically trapped, but emotionally? Maybe not unable to walk, but still feeling dead?
There's nothing harder than facing ourselves and admitting that we have a problem. But there's nothing worse than remaining trapped in a prison of our own making that our Creator wants to destroy for our own good.
What is your 600 pounds today, friend? What will it take for you to face it and lose it? Whatever it is, surrender it. Lay down the weight, literal or metaphorical, and allow the God who made you to remake you into what He desires. Those 600 pounds are not what He intended.
All photos from http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/my-600-lb-life/photos