Today’s Christian Post Reporter Stephanie Samuel asked me a few questions for The Book Room. The results of the interviews appears in Today’s Christian Post. Click HERE to go to the link. The story follows.
Author Teresa Shields Parker knows what it is like to struggle with food addiction and weight gain. Parker constantly craved carbs and sugar. She gave into those cravings, believing it was OK as long as she was active in church ministry. After trying every weight loss plan, program, pill and shake available, Parker turned to God to help her overcome her overwhelming cravings.
Parker shared in an email interview with The Book Room how God helped her make hard diet changes and how to have a sweet Christmas without the sugar.
TBR: Tell us a little about your latest book Sweet Grace.
Parker: Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying To Earn God’s Favor is about my journey into and out of super morbid obesity. My workaholic tendencies played into this journey.
In my journals as far back as 1977 I recorded praying and asking God what I had to do to get rid of this mountain of flesh. I wrote His response: Stop eating sugar, eat lean meat, eat fruits, eat vegetables and stop eating so much bread. That same thing is recorded at least five more times through the years. I never thought I could do the first step so I dismissed it.
To make up for my disobedience in that area, I worked harder in ministry and jobs feeling the stories I wrote would surely trump the donuts I ate. This would of course make me feel tired and unappreciated and so I would go to the thing I had learned immediately comforted me, which was sweets and breads.
This book is the recounting of that journey. Today I do not eat processed sugar or items with gluten.
I live a fasted lifestyle that to some may sound confining. But after losing more than 263 pounds I can assure you it is the most freeing thing I have ever done. I live free from the pull of sweets.
Now, I can sit down with others who are eating breads, pastas and sweets and not mind as long as I have something healthy for me to eat. I always carry a gluten-free, processed sugar-free bar so I don’t get in that position.
I realize that my health is so much more than a taste that lasts only moments. I choose to eat healthy because I finally see food as it was originally intended. Food is fuel for our bodies so we can live and work on mission every day for God.
TBR: What led you to share your story with others? What need did you see?
Parker: I know the misery I was in when I weighed 430 pounds. I know the misery of others who are extremely overweight. Christians, as well as others, are slowly killing themselves by indulging in processed sugars and breads which to some people is extremely addictive. It is like alcohol in that not everyone who drinks alcohol will become an alcoholic, but some have the metabolic makeup to become an alcoholic. To stop the harmful life pattern they have to stop drinking alcohol. The same is true for me and thousands of others who have the exact same makeup.
If we eat sugar and breads or starches we will gain weight. The only way for us to lose weight and gain control over our eating and thus, our health, is to stop eating those things we crave. When we do that, God comes to our aid and supports us as we walk out obedience. Not doing this keeps us stuck in a pattern that keeps us bound, unable to really be effective laypeople, ministers, mothers and fathers. We wonder what is wrong, but we really know the problem is God wants all of us, even that part that loves sugar and bread more than Him.
TBR: What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
Parker: Knowing what to leave in and what to leave out of the book was difficult. There is so much I could say but 60 years doesn’t fit very neatly on 250 pages. Also, making sure I share my feelings and experiences only, knowing others who were there may have different interpretation of the same experiences. Some people in the book I chose not to reveal the true identity. This is not to protect them, but only because they are not around to tell their side of the story. I tell how situations impacted me. Whether the person meant the harm is not the key focus. The focus is that I perceived it as a wound that drove me deeper into morbid obesity.
Another hard part is realizing many of my brothers and sisters caught in the spiral I was caught in, will dismiss this book and may even throw stones at it. I am very aware I am messing with the church’s last “sanctified sin”.
Though God says we have grace to cover all of our failures. He knew our tendencies and knew we would mess up so He gave us grace. And yet He is sad because we refuse to acknowledge the things we run to instead of Him are causing our physical demise. I’m sad because many will not accept or understand my message.
TBR: How do you hope your book will impact the readers?
Parker: It is my hope that readers who have my same issue will realize God does care about their situation and wants them set free as much as they do. But He cannot and will not make it magically happen. There is no easy or quick fix to morbid obesity. Believe me when I say I’ve tried them all, even gastric bypass surgery which worked for awhile until I found I could eat sugar again.
Weight loss and becoming healthy takes hard, consistent work. When you begin to walk out the health journey, God’s grace will be there to support you like the wind at your back moving you forward.
For friends and family of those with sugar addiction or any other addictive behavior, it is my hope that Sweet Grace gives them insight into the problem and knowledge that prayer and consistent support looks different than scolding and mandates.
TBR: How can those are struggling with other addictions relate to this book?
Parker: Those who have read Sweet Grace have said it gives insight into any addictive behavior, the pull certain substances have on them and how changing your mind about the substance can make all the difference.
Cravings seem overwhelming at times and they are as long as we are putting the substance in our bodies. When we stop, the cravings go away as long as we stay away from those substances or behaviors. When we think we can handle our addiction and partake again, the cravings kick in immediately and we are hooked again.
God can walk with us through this time. If we invite Him to, He will remind us of what we are doing. For instance, when I have eaten sugar again while on this journey, I simply hear His quiet voice say, “What are you doing?” And I say, “I’m throwing this cookie away.” And I do. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.
TBR: Why is this book a must read this holiday season?
Parker: Christmas more than any other season is one of sweets and breads and cakes and pies and candy.
We have a mindset that it’s not Christmas without these things. And yet for some people, Christmas is an explosion of food they cannot contain.
Most Christians would never serve alcohol at Christmas, especially not to those who are known alcoholics. However, we push sugar on those who are extremely overweight or we see are headed in that direction. We tend to think we are doing them a favor by feeding them because they love it so much. I might have loved to eat sugar and breads at the time, but later I regretted my decision to gorge on them, which would depress me. Then, I would go and eat even more.
For a sugar and bread addict, food is not fuel. Food is an anesthetizer to pain. It is a way to celebrate and feel moments of happiness. But it leaves a lifetime of disillusionment and despair. The real result is that they will die much younger. Continuing to enable someone in this lifestyle is only harming them.
During the holiday season, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is the gift of health. Cook healthy. Find ways to incorporate fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and lean meats into your holiday celebration. Serve nuts and lay off of the candy. If you have someone in your household who needs to be healthy, begin eating healthy yourself. Clean your cabinets and fridge and freezer of all unhealthy foods and don’t bring them back into the house.
If you want your loved ones to be free, do not tempt them with the fact you can eat this kind of thing and not gain weight. They can’t. Accept that and love them by joining with them in a healthier lifestyle.
For those of you who haven’t yet purchased Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor, now through Dec. 17, autographed copies are only $10 (plus reduced shipping and handling) when you order them HERE. It will show as $12.99 but click add to cart and then in the coupon code enter decemeber2013 to get the reduced price. It’s my Christmas gift to you. Buy several. They make great gifts!
Sweet Grace Study Guide is still available free on this website when you put in the special link at the back of the memoir. However, if you wish to order a paperback copy, go HERE and do that. It makes a great companion gift with Sweet Grace for Christmas.