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From the January 2008 issue of The Christian Science Journal

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I felt bombarded by ads and TV programs about widespread obesity in the United States. They said that obesity was the result of a self-indulgent search for "the good life," or material satisfaction. I realized that, like many people, I had fallen into a habit of using food as insulation to cope with emotional surges—reactions to injustice, unkindness, and disappointments in my life, all of which resulted in my having a lack of clear purpose and self-respect. The constant need to shop for larger sizes and looser clothing, while trying to keep my appearance up-to-date, also led to discouragement and a loss of joy.

A friend in whom I had confided jump-started my healing with her quiet, spiritual support. We're both accustomed to addressing challenges with prayer, and our conversation encouraged me.

One day as I was reading Science and Health, the following sentence caught my attention: "Christian Scientists must live under the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out from the material world and be separate" (p. 451). And elsewhere in the book it states that the individual who is advancing spiritually "constantly turns away from material sense, and looks towards the imperishable things of Spirit" (p. 21). I had discovered that using food to cope with unsettling emotions was unsatisfactory, but now I could see that it threatened to interfere with my spiritual progress.

So I made a conscious decision to begin to value the "things of Spirit"—of God—and not to participate in the obesity epidemic by eating my way out of the disappointments of life. Rather than wallow in them, I began to think more deeply about God and my relationship to Him. I prayed to get a better understanding of womanhood and of how divine Spirit defines me, rather than seeing myself as having an unattractive, overweight body and the limitations such a concept imposes. For several months, I frequently reminded myself that as a reflection of Spirit, I express ageless beauty and perfect form, as well as stability. I affirmed to myself that I could expect to see this stability permeate every area of my life—and not only my thoughts, but my eating habits.

The Christian Science magazines and weekly Bible Lessons were all helpful to me, and in particular, this Bible verse: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness" (II Cor. 7:1). For me, "perfecting holiness" meant to consistently deny the physical senses of indulgences, both emotional and physical. In practice, whenever I had an unsettling thought, I would challenge it and affirm that I reflected the peaceful and satisfying thoughts coming from my only source, divine Mind. I was learning that these spiritual thoughts always reduce the emotional extremes in mortal thought.

I also prayed persistently not to be influenced by the popular belief that food could affect me. This mental discipline was especially necessary whenever I saw an overweight person, visited the grocery store with its overabundance of food, received oversized portions while dining out, or noticed the lack of balance in fast food meals, although the food tasted good and seemed satisfying. Then I'd remind myself that God is the source of everything good and satisfying and that good is spiritual.

I began asking myself questions such as, What does a normal portion of food look like? Should it be a meal or a feast? What kinds of food are best to eat? My prayerful reasoning eventually impelled me to choose more natural foods over processed food products. I realized that many of the foods I'd been eating should be eaten as an occasional treat, not as a meal.

Over a period of 18 months, I saw a marked change in my appearance. I began fitting into clothing several sizes smaller. My body appeared more normal and balanced. I felt invigorated and uplifted when, for the first time in many years, I looked good in a skirt, and even more, had the courage to put one on! My less matter-oriented lifestyle also sparked an interest in cooking. With an expanded food list, which included vegetables, I loved preparing and eating quicker, lighter meals, and continue to do so. And although I can't say all the disappointments and bumps in my life disappeared, I no longer found myself turning to food to smooth them out.

A phrase from Science and Health explains my transformation this way: "the leaven of Spirit changes the whole of mortal thought..." (p. 118). The Interpreter's Bible Dictionary defines leaven, in part, as "an element ... which tempers, moderates, ... changes the whole by a progressive inward operation." This is a great description of what I experienced.

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