No, we’re not suggesting a faddy diet. Liz Babbs has tried them all, but it was when she began to focus on her faith and fitness instead of her weight, that she began to see results

I’ve been on the treadmill of dieting since I was 13 years old. I come from a line of overweight folk – as children, we called my grandma Nanny Fat! – and my mother was worried I might get fat and told me so repeatedly. As a result, I developed a fear of getting fat which resulted in me comfort eating. I’ve been unhappy with my weight and size for most of my life.

TV programmes and magazines promote fad diets encouraging us to drop a dress size in a few weeks. These extreme diets perpetuate the lie that weight loss is quick and simple. It’s not. It takes iron-like willpower and determination to change your lifestyle, and that does not happen in a few weeks! Severe restrictions to food and calorie intake are not sustainable anyway, as our bodies go into starvation mode and begin to crave the foods they’re denied.

One of the most helpful books I read in my early twenties was called Dieting Makes You Fat. That book made so much sense. I wish I’d heeded its advice. I think dieting, like overeating, can become compulsive or addictive. Once it gets a grip, it’s hard to break free. You become locked into a cycle of guilt and condemnation which leads to further comfort eating and yo-yo dieting. This vicious circle is one the diet industry conveniently ignores because they make billions of pounds from our misfortune.

When I was researching my gift book The Thing about Calories, I interviewed women who had tried many well-known diet regimes, but all had failed to maintain their weight loss. It’s a sad fact that a high percentage of dieters regain the weight they’ve lost once they start eating normally, and some even put on more weight!

So what is going wrong? The problem is that a diet is only a short-term change – a period of time when a person stops eating unhealthily. But when the diet is over, if the nutritional behaviour that caused the person to put on weight in the first place has not changed, they run the risk of putting the weight back on as they revert to old eating habits. Every time you diet and fail, you’re in conflict with your body and we’re not meant to be at war with our bodies! Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit – they’re sacred.

What we need to do is first of all recognise that short-term approaches to weight loss don’t work and then value ourselves enough to change our eating habits for the long term. Eating healthily is a strategy for life, an investment in yourself and your future health. If you don’t fill up your car with the right fuel, it damages the engine. But some people treat their cars better than they treat their bodies! The Bible calls us to: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31), but if we’re not caring for ourselves and our bodies, we won’t have the energy to serve others.

A healthy lifestyle is not rocket science and most of us know what we should be eating and that we should move around more, we just don’t do it. So, what’s going to make the difference? This is where the Transformer comes in. I have spent the last few years studying the life of Jesus and, having experienced his transforming power in many areas of my own life, I recently wrote Transformed by the Presence of Jesus (CWR, 2014). I realised that I was not experiencing the fullness of the life Jesus died to give me (John 10:10) and decided, with God’s help, to start making changes.

One area I had not overcome was the issue of my weight and unhealthy eating patterns, and I decided it was time to bring this to God. I was also encouraged by hearing about other women, who were the same age as me, successfully dealing with various weight-related illnesses. Once you reach middle age, people say it’s impossible to lose weight, but that isn’t true, as several of my friends have lost significant amounts of weight by changing their lifestyles.

So, over the last ten months, I’ve overhauled my lifestyle. Work no longer comes first, my health does. I make time to shop for healthy food and to exercise. The Great British Bake Off has reignited my interest in cooking and made me aware how much better home-cooked food tastes. I’m now more discriminating about what I eat and I rarely buy, or eat, junk food.

My snacks include fruit, nuts and raisins, plus chocolate nuts as a treat. I’ve also cut down on the amount of tea and coffee I drink, as these were really an excuse to eat chocolate or chocolate biscuits. I now choose more cold drinks (filtered water with lime) and hot milk when I’m hungry. Over time, my palate has changed. My body now tells me it wants fruit – which is quite remarkable as I’ve been famous as a chocoholic.

I now go swimming and walk most weeks, and have bought a bike so I can cycle to friends’ houses instead of taking the car. I’m not denying myself anything, I’m just living and eating differently. I’ve lost 7lbs and have kept it off for ten months, which is progress. I’m no longer living to eat, but eating to live – my priorities have changed and I’m much fitter. Now that’s freedom!
+ For more information about Liz visit www.lizbabbs.com

+ Liz will be leading a women’s weekend for CWR at Pilgrim Hall (19th–21st September 2014 called Finding Freedom – making room for God to transform your life

10 steps to a more healthy life

1 When you comfort eat, ask yourself, “What am I really hungry for?”

2 Develop a lifestyle strategy and pray about it, asking God to help you. Know why you want to make this change and how you’re going to put it into action. Journal your thoughts.

3 Keep a food diary so you become more aware what you are eating and how much. Portion control is important, so use smaller plates and dishes.

4 Have a training buddy, one you can exercise with and be accountable to.

5 Make small changes across weeks and months and you’ll sustain the change.

6 Don’t become obsessed with your weight. Focus on healthy eating and moving more, and the weight will come off over time.

7 Think balance. It’s not that certain foods are bad, but that you’re adjusting your diet as a whole and ensuring a good variety of food.

8 Forget the ‘quick fix’. Think long term.

9 Enjoy cooking and baking, and invite friends round to sample your results. You’re likely to grow more friends!

10 Be kind to yourself. If you fall off the wagon, it’s OK. Pick yourself up and keep going. You CAN do it!