I first became aware of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds And Stopped Trying To Earn God’s Favor by Teresa Shields Parker through Melanie. Teresa begins her story with being in the hospital at age 45 and 430 lbs and finding out she had congestive heart failure (instead of the valve problem she thought she had) and high blood pressure and diabetes (which she had never been diagnosed with before). A cardiac surgeon bluntly told her she needed to lose 100 lbs. right away or she’d be dead in five years. He suggested gastric bypass surgery. Teresa had lost and then regained weight off and on through the years. She knew this time she needed to make a definite change. Still, she wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it or if she could stay with it long-term.
She then backs up to talk about her childhood and the several things that contributed to her weight gain. Eating comforted her through various issues and situations, especially eating sugar or bread products. She had become a Christian, majored in journalism and Biblical studies in college, and wanted to write for and publish Christian publications. She got good jobs and married. She made lists of things she should be doing to please God – lists that seemed (and were) impossible. Every problem or pressure point drove her to comfort herself with food. She finally did have gastric bypass surgery. Afterward, she couldn’t eat a lot at one time, but she found she could eat a little bit all through the day – and her weight returned.
Then she shares the day “the flip was switched” in her thinking, how she realized she needed not only to pray for God to take away her cravings, but she needed to obey what He wanted her to do, relying on His strength in her weakness. In her particular case, she felt she was addicted to sugar and sensitive to gluten, so she cut out those foods completely along with exercising. She discusses various issues she had to learn to deal with (realizing that she did not need to eat in order not to offend people, forgiveness, etc.) Most of all she realized that God’s love was characterized by grace, that He loved her no matter what, and she didn’t need to keep long lists to keep in His love.
Although my reasons for being overweight are not the same as hers, and I wouldn’t follow her plan exactly, and I disagree with her on a few theological points, I did enjoy and benefit from reading her story. These quotes especially spoke to me:
A theme had formed. I allowed my physical body to dictate decisions rather than my soul or spirit (p. 61).
When I go to Him for help in my time of temptation, He promises to give me a way out, but I have to do something as well. I have to listen to what He says and then follow through. Sometimes it’s as simple as stopping and asking myself what I need (p. 194).
It involved giving up what I thought was bringing me comfort, only to clearly see they were leading to a sure and certain early death. I was committing suicide slowly, sweet morsel by sweet morsel (p. 219).
[God] won’t physically remove the donut from my hand, but He will, at my invitation, remind me of my former decision (p. 222).
[After pondering why she has trouble with sugar and other people don’t] God loves me so much He specifically designed me with a weakness that keeps me dependent on Him for any measure of success (p. 223).
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)