What is your greatest fear?

“I know everyone spouts statistics about the fear of public speaking and of spiders and all that, but in my 30+ years of experience in working with people from all walks of life, what I have come to learn is the greatest fear that people face today is the fear of losing control.

These were the words of the famed Rick Warren, Pastor and inspirational author of the super selling, The Purpose Driven Life, as he was delivering a sermon that I regularly listen to on podcast.

 

For some, it might be the fear of losing their temper and letting their anger take them out of control. For others, it might be losing control over their family or safety and not being able to protect everyone. For yet others, it’s the fear of losing one’s “cool” and allowing their anxiety and nerves to take control.

 

For me, for the majority of my life, my number one fear has been the fear of losing control over my eating. I genuinely fear not being able to stop eating and letting my cravings rule my life, and of course gaining a ton of weight from it. His words are absolutely true for me.

 

The thing about our “worst fears” is that they always seem to pull us toward them. Like a magnet, the more we fear doing something, the more likely we are to do it.

So yes, I have struggled with a large appetite for my whole life and yes, especially when it comes to my “trigger foods” which are sugary, rich foods, like desserts, I can spiral out of control pretty fast.

This consequently leads to what I consider one of the most prevalent and worst feelings we can ever feel….SHAME.

 

I vividly remember the depth of this fear and shame in college as I was on a weekend getaway with my best girlfriends up at one of the girl’s parent’s home in Newport Beach. It was someone’s birthday and they had my number one trigger food out for us to eat…..birthday cake.

So, it started with a few bites with all of us surrounding the cake….

All my friends pulled away after a few bites….but not me.

I would sit down for a little, trying to take a break but all my brain would focus on was more cake. Then as though my legs and hands were acting in complete resistance to what my panicking brain was telling them to do, I would be back up, taking a few more bites.

It was then, that I heard one of my friends whisper, “Why does she keep eating that cake??!”

I. was. mortified. Not only was I already tormenting myself, but on top of it, I now had someone pointing it out!

 

Having no coping skills at this time, I shut down, stopped talking much. Then after obsessively beating myself up all that night, I got up early before anyone else and went and ran 7 miles on the beach, trying desperately to counteract my shame by “working it off.”

 

Well, this was over 10 years ago now. So in 10 years, I’ve obviously learned a ton more about the extreme addictive properties of food (sugar has been proven to be more addictive than cocaine!), cravings, and the psychology of eating.

 

Not to mention, I now have a much greater relationship with God and have SURREND’hered my health and these struggles to Him and have found such a reprieve from my old destructive fears, guilt and shame.

 

So, I guess I’m healed right? Fear free and shame free? Ha! Yeah. Right.

 

Just this week offered me another humbling example….

Last week, we were blessed to be in the foodie town of Portland, OR and then onto one of my all-time favorites, London, England and I was on track to having possibly the greatest trip of my life in the fact that I was really focused on living and eating as I always do: Eating nutrient based, getting in great workouts, not stressing about food, getting enough protein, and overall really focused on enjoying the moments and the food I got to experience.

Until 2 little words would cause my greatest fear to rear its ugly little head….”HIGH. TEA.”

 

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High Tea is a wonderful English tradition that includes a 3-tiered plated presentation of deliciousness: little sandwiches, pastries, desserts, and English scones served with clotted cream (a fancy butter) and fresh raspberry preserves. On top of that, after this is all done, they give you a large piece of…..you guesed it…CAKE!

Having had the chance to try it before, I knew I would be indulging in this one meal as my treat meal of the week guilt free, so I planned for it with great success.

High TeaThe problem was, the vacation was not over that day. The next day, we found ourselves with not much to do in the afternoon and wanted to watch some of the Wimbledon Tennis at the hotel with…another High Tea! Gah, it was so good!

So, I survived two days of my favorite thing ever and was happy to be on a plane home the next day. We had the privilege of getting to fly Virgin Atlantic Airlines for the first time and it was a really cool experience. But just when I was all set to come back to reality of normal eating life….these darling, red-suit wearing and smiling Flight Attendants came at me again with ANOTHER High Tea….on the airplane!! What the whatttt?!

At this point, I was consciously playing the role of the yo-yo dieter, the over eater, the “I’ll get back on track on Monday” girl and I was spiraling down the hole of shame once again. I reverted back to the exact girl I teach my clients to SURREND’her away from and chose True Health.

 

It is so frustrating to know better and to not be able to do better.   As silly as they may sound for anyone that has ever overindulged on a vacation, because I get that all of us have done it, the frustration I felt in myself was deeper because of this great fear that I have—this fear of losing control and overeating. So when I did it again I spiraled down in to the feeling of shame and helplessness.

 

So at this point, you’re probably wondering, “Well that’s a downer of a story Amanda. You’re telling me that you still struggle with the same fears you’ve always had? In spite of having all this knowledge and in spite of your relationship with God, nothing really changed?”

 

The answer is, of course not!

 

In spite of the similar experiences, in spite of the similar emotions and the fears and shame emerging their raging little heads again, I AM definitely different now than I was 10+ years ago.

 

Because now, even though I can admit that I felt HELPLESS, the difference is I am not HOPELESS.

 

All the work I’ve been doing to become WISE’her and SURREND’her my health UP did not prevent me from my old destructive ways completely. But, it completely changes my RECOVERY from it.

 

I took 4 critical steps to change how I processed these feelings and they made all the difference in how I was able to SHIFT OUT OF SHAME.

  1. REST:

    My shame wanted me to get up early work off my overeating in a double session at the gym.   My shame wanted me to do an all day fast or a juice cleanse to “punish” my body back to healthy eating. Luckily, through prayer, I recognized these negative thoughts as my own and not from God.   When I quieted my heart and gave this shame UP, I heard the need for REST to connect better to Him and steer away from doing things “my way.”

    Every week we really do need to take a Sabbath day—a full day of rest.   This is not a request from God; this is one of His commandments! It is imperative that we take a day to worship Him and rest our minds and bodies. After traveling and working all day on Sunday, my typical Sabbath day, I knew I needed a real Sabbath. So I was obedient to this calling.

    I spent the day venting my frustration to Him, crying some, praying a lot, reading a lot, and then napping, walking and recovering.

    {I realize working for myself and not having children full-time gives me this luxury, but if you’re caught in the same position where you are deep in some negative emotions like shame, I do suggest these times to be a perfect “personal day” off of work or at least taking 1-2 hours of time to yourself away and with God. Do you best in finding a way to listen to what God desires for you.}

  2.  REPENT:

    One of the things I’ve come to learn is that God uses PAIN in our life not as punishment but as a pointer to shift our thinking to what is True. The pain I face when I do over eat is tied to the sin that it is. I’m not trying to sugar coat this for myself. But constantly over indulging and treating food as these intense rewards that I lose myself for is gluttony and it is food idolatry.

    “When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies for that food is deceptive.” (Proverbs 23: 1-2 NLT).

In spite of my sin, I realized God was not shaming me for my wrong, I was shaming myself–an incredibly important distinction.   It was not God that caused my shame; that is not how God works. God is ever loving and ever giving of Light of Peace and Love. God will give us Conviction of our wrongs, but we make it into shame and distance ourselves from God as we do this. God hates the sin but never hates the sinner.

Confessing this to God and praying for forgiveness and believing, in Faith, that God will forgive these sins was the key to me being able to turn back to God and move forward, walking in His Light again.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)

  1. REACH OUT:

If it appears that I was naturally able to rise above the pit of shame I found myself in, I can assure you I was not. Shame is a heavy cloud that envelops one’s soul without recoil. So many of us have lived in shame for our whole lives, sometimes caused by others without our conscious consent. Giving this emotion a name, giving it awareness, was key in overcoming the negative emotion. But then I needed someone to help me too.

So, I reached out to my prayer partner and one of my best friends, Jennifer, for our weekly call. It is invaluable to have just one person we can be vulnerable with, that we can talk about our deepest fears and needs and they will not just console us, but to remind us of God’s love and pray for us.

Jennifer at first kinda laughed and knew the “guilt” of overeating that we all can have, especially on vacation. But as I explained the depth of the shame that can wave over me from these acts, she listened sincerely.

Then she said, “I understand completely. But remember, you have prayed for forgiveness and God has granted it for you and He has wiped it clean. You must now walk in that forgiveness and move forward.”

Simple, yet, so profound. So often we will feel the trap of our shame that just keeps us dwelling on the guilt for so long. Yet, God promises to forget our sins, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Heb 8:12). I needed that reminder from Jennifer to help me move forward in that moment.

Find that person, your person, that you can trust that when you reach out, they will help you stand and walk out of your shame. If you are having a hard time finding that person to trust for you, try to be that person for someone else first. Helping others can be an incredible way to help yourself. Over time, you teach them how to reciprocate.

 

  1. REFOCUS:

As I needed to walk out of my shame, I needed to refocus my heart and my attention on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4: 8-9 NIV).

So, I took the time to refocus away from the shame onto my fruits of the Spirit that God promises us. I listed out all 9 fruits and wrote out all the ways that I feel and show those emotions. This reminded me that I was Good and I was a child of God.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22 NIV)

From this refocused position, I became the real me again.

Shame is not who we are, no matter how long we may have suffered in its existence.  Some things we have done in our life might cause a sense of shame that runs much deeper than something as trivial, even though it is serious for me, as overeating.  But these four steps can be your way to SHIFT out of any SHAME.  There is not allotted time limit it might take you, but work through each step fervently, giving yourself as much grace and love as possible, and sure even, you’ll SHIFT out of your SHAME too!

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