I’m curious. Has the strategy of deprivation EVER worked for you? I’ve been on the deprivation train more times than I would like to admit, and the only destinations I ever arrived at were misery, crankiness, disappointment and failure. And somehow, I found myself getting back on the crazy train for more punishment and defeat. Any results I did get along the way vanished quicker than freshly baked cookies sitting on the kitchen counter. And can you relate to the belief that losing weight (getting results) has to be hard, miserable and self-sacrificing? If so, then self-deprivation fits the bill.
By definition, deprivation sounds like a weird form of torture we volunteer for. Deprivation is the voluntary denial or suppression of one’s own interests or desires. Sounds like fun, right? As women, we often partner with self-deprivation as a method to achieve the lofty goal of attaining a better or perfect version of our bodies. This method seems reasonable since we feel we need something extreme to override our normal daily habits and choices that have led to our muffin top, jiggly arms and back veranda. So at some level, it makes sense that if we suck it up and suppress our desire for chocolate, wine, pizza, bread, fast food, mochas, etc. for a designated period of time, then we should be able to achieve weight loss, confidence, energy and success. Sounds simple, right?
But it isn’t simple and ultimately, it doesn’t work. We eventually give in and the results quickly disappear along with another shred of our self-worth, confidence and hope.
The reason deprivation doesn’t work is whenever we define a goal by what we won’t do versus what we will do, we disrupt the process of growth and development required to actually maintain the results. Deprivation lacks a solid foundation to build results on. Deprivation does not cultivate lifelong habits, empowering mindset patterns and the necessary self-confidence to sustain results so eventually we end up right back where we started. Any woman who (like me) has been on any kind of diet(s) knows this is truth.
So why do we give in to the temptation of deprivation if it’s a dead end?
Deprivation becomes alluring when we focus on goals that are short-term, superficial and have no real connection or focus to lifelong change. For example:
- we want to lose five pounds in a week for a weight loss challenge at work.
- we want to lose 20 pounds before our tropical vacation or high school reunion.
- we want to fit into our wedding dress in three months that we bought 2 sizes smaller.
- we just want to get the weight off fast and tell ourselves once we lose the weight, then we will hunker down and get healthy.
For these goals, deprivation may work because 1) we believe the process should be sacrificial, miserable and grueling and 2) we only have to do it for a short period of time. So deprivation fits our requirements. Because of these two criteria, we may be able to muster up the strength and willpower to say “no” to the temptations and override the hunger pains, moodiness and fatigue because we can literally see the finish line that is “x” pounds or “x” weeks away.
So we lose the five pounds, now what? And we come back from our vacation with half of the weight already gained back, now what? And now we are married and wearing sweatpants everyday instead of our wedding dress, now what?
Some of us search for the next finish line we can see - or we wait until we backslide and are so disgusted with ourselves that we find the motivation to do it all over again. But ladies, if you have been around the block of deprivation a time or two (or a hundred) - it gets old. We get older. Personally, what I did in my 20’s and early 30’s doesn’t do it for my body or my mind anymore. And telling myself (or being told by anyone else) that I can’t have something feels a bit bossy and parental to me - two things that don’t personally motivate me in the least. So what’s a grown adult going to do when deprivation isn’t an option anymore?
Get Your Feelings In Check
First, let’s talk about our feelings because we are women and we have a lot of them. In today’s society, we are sold the lie to follow our feelings. Our feelings are terrible indicators of what we should do.
- “Feelings” lead to affairs.
- “Feelings” lead to divorce.
- “Feelings” lead to rash decisions that alter the course of our lives.
- “Feelings” lead to emotional strongholds.
- “Feeling” lead to overeating.
- “Feelings” lead to skipping the gym.
- “Feelings” drive unforgiveness and resentment.
If we wait to “feel” like doing what we are suppose to do and what is best for ourselves and others, we will never experience what we long for. Feelings fail. Instead, if you do what is best and honor what is healthy, positive and fruitful, here’s the good news - the feelings you ultimately desire will follow. Imagine that. Feelings will flow from your actions and attitudes. Waiting for positive and motivational feelings to drop out of the sky or spontaneously manifest is not a solid strategy.
Health Is a Journey
True health doesn’t have a finish line, ladies. We cannot live our lives ping-ponging between gluttony and deprivation. We cannot buy into the lie that fixing the outside of us is going to fix what is lacking or overwhelming us on the inside. Our health is a lifelong journey that begins within and manifests outward. So let’s talk about a real, tangible and viable alternative to self-deprivation. It’s self-discipline.
The Gift of Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feeling and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptation to abandon it. This sounds promising, except so many women believe they cannot control themselves in particular areas of their life. It may be eating, exercising, parenting, gossiping, spending, self-sabotaging relationships, negative thinking, etc. Here’s what I know to be true from personally coaching women for over ten years - what you believe (whether it’s a lie or truth) will drive your thoughts, feelings and actions. Women who believe they have no control, willpower or motivation manifest out-of-control results and therefore are destined to fail.
I get it.
I have so many vivid and visceral memories of telling myself every day, day after day, year after year that, “this is the last time I am going to binge and purge”. I remember starting numerous new diets and promising myself, “this is the last time I am going to lose the weight.” I remember binge drinking on the weekend and feeling like hell the next day and telling myself, “I am never going to do that again.” I knew what was right. I knew what I needed to do, but I couldn’t do it. I knew the answer, but I felt powerless to execute. Deep down, I didn’t believe I could do it.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Self-discipline only becomes possible when you know the truth of who you are and to whom you belong. Self-discipline of your body, mind and spirit will easily flow when you are in relationship with your Creator and in alignment with your uniquely designed purpose and destiny. We have access to the power to be self-controlled and disciplined in our thoughts, words and actions through belief (faith) in Jesus.
Jesus lived an incredibly self-disciplined life because He knew who He was, what He was called to do and who His source was. Self-control and discipline were trusted companions designed to help him accomplish His mission. And for those of us who believe on Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have the same access to this power through the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But, we have to connect to this source and access it through faith. We cannot live a consistent life of healthy self-discipline with willpower or external motivation lest we become exhausted and eventually give up. Aside from faith, the other key ingredient is surrender or our will for God’s will and allow the Holy Spirit to guide, teach and empower us. Surrender is relinquishing control and it’s a battle within itself, but the battle can be won for “we are more than overcomers through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Surrender is challenging for our human minds to embrace, but God has a way of allowing and orchestrating circumstances in our lives to bring us to surrender. Unfortunately, this process usually involves pain, loss, failure and disappointment. The process can feel like you are being crushed. But just like the crushing of grapes is necessary for the transformation of grapes into wine, there is a purpose for the pain. It’s through the pain that many of us come to the end of ourselves. It’s at the depletion of our own strength that we often seek and find a God who has been patiently waiting for us to turn our faces towards Him and run back into the safety of His arms. And when we find God, we discover who we really are and why we were created. And when we know who we really are, we don’t have to chase a number on the scale to validate our self-worth. We don’t need to deprive ourselves because we no longer find it necessary to numb, avoid and cope with unhealthy behaviors that leads to the weight, fatigue and discomfort.
Without grounding our identity in our Creator and Father God, we will seek to find our significance in the approval of people, our weight, money, status, looks, material things, social media popularity, sex, power, control or some other external source. I believe the battle between being choosing deprivation versus self-discipline is determined by where we ground our self-worth and identity. Defining our identity outside of God is what leads to much of our self-inflicted pain, confusion, dysfunctional behaviors and brokenness. It makes us susceptible to choosing quick superficial fixes to numb and divert our focus from the pain of not knowing our value and purpose.
In my 20’s, I deeply desired to look good. If I am completely honest, I didn’t just want to look good; I wanted to look better than other women, to gain the attention of men and to appear to have it all together because I believed it was the key to influence and popularity. I can say this without shame, because I don’t live in that space anymore. I am not that person anymore. But when I lived in that reality, I could eliminate things and deprive myself to get ready for summer or a trip or after a break-up with the goal centered around the number on the scale and how I wanted to look physically.
Looking back, I can see how deprivation made sense to me because deep down I didn’t believe I was enough and I thought the perfect body was going to give me the “enoughness” I was constantly in search of. I didn’t feel worthy unless I was thin. I doubted my beauty, talent, purpose and future. I doubted my ability to be self-controlled and therefore I resorted to out-of-control methods like binging, purging, starvation and dieting. I had no real, tangible experience of God’s love, plan and purpose for me - it was simply a theory. Deprivation felt right because it felt unloving, critical and harsh. Maybe this resonates with you. Deprivation may not feel good, but it may feel comfortable - even if it’s dysfunctional comfort. If this is you my sweet sister, there is hope. I’ve been there too. There is another way. It’s time to take your power back through the truth of the words you are reading.
Fast forward 10, 15, 20 plus years. I still desire to look good, don’t we all? But what I deeply desire now comes from my new identity through God’s definition of who I am. Therefore is any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) It’s not enough for me anymore to just survive one day to the next with the limited and selfish goals of looking good to gain the attention and validation of the world. I have a burning passion to get up everyday because of the revelation of my God given purpose. I live with a peace I searched my whole life for. My actions and identity are now in alignment. Because of my shift in my intentions for being healthy (from the superficial to supernatural), I enthusiastically embrace discipline as my guide to staying on this path of freedom, growth and abundance. And guess what? For the first time in my life, I BELIEVE I am thin, beautiful and enough - all the things I desired but deprivation never delivered.
And God knows us, ladies. He will ease us into what He wants us to do. He knows what we are ready for in this particular season. God eased me into discipline. First, I felt convicted that I should not drink alone. You have to understand, I was raised around alcohol. I was pouring draft beer for my dad when I was five. Alcohol was associated with every event and emotion of my childhood and adulthood. This is not something that comes easy for me to just dismiss and let go. I have spent many nights drinking alone, unwinding from the day, escaping loneliness and checking out.
This conviction came right after before my physical separation from my husband. I knew there were going to be many nights when Berlyn would be with Brian and I would be by myself with only my thoughts (and a bottle of wine) to keep me company. I didn’t want to check out of the grieving process like I had done when in my 20’s when my mom died, only for it to catch up to me years later with a wake of destruction left behind me. Not this time. I needed to keep a clear head. I needed to cry. I needed to mourn. I needed to hear from God and feel his presence and know everything was going to be okay. I needed to release anger, confusion, pain and disappointment. I needed to know when to take the next step and get clarity on what the next step was. I needed to take care of my baby and me.
Alcohol was not going to do any of those things. Plus alcohol usually led me down the path to other unhealthy behaviors including isolation, depression and bulimia. So I decided to come into agreement with God an exercise my self-discipline to not drink alone. One hundred percent commitment is easy, ladies. Being 99% committed is hard. The 1% will always make you question yourself and provide you a way out of your commitment. And as I walked through the valley of the shadow of my separation, God walked alongside me and changed me in ways I never thought possible because I was available for it to happen. I use to avoid any type of pain because I thought it would kill me. But as I waded through the pain, I found God’s strength and I found myself.
I’m not here to judge or condemn anyone based on what you are willing to do or not do in your journey. I share my life experiences with the hopes that someone who is searching for a different answer then “deprivation” may grab on to one or two nuggets of hope. I do know that some of you have already felt a conviction that you have been ignoring or suppressing. Maybe it’s time to surrender and trust God’s nudge and step up to the plate of self-discipline..
Here are some final thoughts.
- Discipline is not a sacrifice, it’s necessary for extraordinary results.
- Discipline is not limiting, it’s where freedom lives.
- Discipline is not perfection, it’s committed progress.
- Discipline is not a hard path, it’s the path to our true potential.
- Discipline is not about rules, it’s about creating safe boundaries to live within so we are protected, blessed and focused.
If you are ready to walk the path of self-discipline in exchange for the torment of deprivation, I would be honored to show you a proven path of growth, change and progress that has worked for me and thousands of women before you. CLICK here to schedule a free coaching session with me. I would be honored to hear about your journey and explore what is possible!