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Just dropping by ... The gift of temperance

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 18 January 2017

Here I sit in the middle of January, with my goals and ambitions staring me in the face. Change is one of those tricky monsters, wielding a double-edged pen that plainly writes in bold print, “If you don’t choose to make the changes you want, life will change you into what you don’t want.”

It’s always an up-the-down-escalator proposition. You either climb every single day or end up right back where you started. You can’t use the “I’ll start tomorrow” excuse. Tomorrow is always waiting in the wings of today. Nothing ever happens in that delicious fantasy. Today is the only time that truly belongs to you.

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When I was a teenager with hopes and dreams and vulnerabilities to every television and magazine advertisement, I started my diet craze. I thought that if I was skinny, all my self-consciousness would vanish. I would be attractive and nearly perfect.

I would be accepted in the “in crowd.” I knew it had to be true because the fashion designers said it was. I carried that false notion long past my teens into adulthood and married life.

Now that I am a grandmother of nearly 30 children, I realized that I never had a weight problem. I had a wait problem. I’d wait to start eating correctly when Thanksgiving and Christmas were over. There were too many wonderful treats I would miss out on.

As soon as Christmas was over, there was the shivers of January, where you must fight the cold with hot chocolate and a warm fire.

Then February and Valentine chocolates came on the scene. I’d wait for Valentine’s to be over. Then March and April were certainly not times to start a diet with Easter and all. I’d wait until summer when it was warmer to go outside and exercise.

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Then there were the camping trips. No one in his or her right mind diets when camping. So I waited. Then it was wait for the harvest when all the vegetables came on. Too busy with the harvest to eat right.

Then time for school and Halloween, then Thanksgiving and Christmas – and the cycle of waiting was on again. Madness!

Here I am in the grandma chair, finally realizing that eating is a gift from God and should be treated with respect. He didn’t want us to feel guilty about every bite of food that crosses our lips. He wanted us to know about feasting and fasting. He even promised to make our bones fat if we fasted with purpose.

He wanted us to enjoy the bounties of the earth. He certainly didn’t intend for us to live on powdered protein and fiber bars. He wanted us to taste the varieties of foods that He placed here for our enjoyment. He wanted us to have joy.

There has not been one diet, in all the diets I’ve tried and stuck with for more than a day, that has made me happy. I walk around with a scowl on my face and a growl in my stomach.

I don’t think of other people or their needs. I just want to lay around, and nurse my misery, and figure out a reason to put this diet thing off for another time. That can’t be what God intended.

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He created our bodies to be unique. Some are born to be beautiful willowy blondes with hip bones sticking out and long slender legs and arms. Some were born to be fluffy motherly types. Both are beautiful. Fickle fashion designers should have no say about how I should look or feel about my body.

I realized that I don’t have much to say about the figure I was born with. I certainly can take care of my assets and make the best of what I have, but I can’t change my stature or basic build. My body is a gift from God, and I need to be glad I have one that works.

When I think of all diet books, tapes, special foods and exercise machines that promised foolproof success, I am embarrassed to say none of them worked because they sat in the corner unread or unused because I waited for the appropriate time to use them.

Think of the money I would have saved if I had just realized that the gift of temperance was all I needed.

Temperance is one of the seven Heavenly virtues we should all practice. Wikipedia contains a helpful chart that explains each of the seven virtues. “Temperance shows humanity, justice, honor, restraint, temperance, justice.”

Temperance is “constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings; practicing self-control, abstinence, moderation and deferred gratification.”

Temperance embodies “Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time; proper moderation between self-interest versus public interest, and against the rights and needs of others.”

Aren’t diets about temperance? They teach you to abstain. Maybe the ones that really teach a healthier lifelong way to eat – but generally, diets are all about self-gratification. We want to change the way we look. We want to wear a different fashion.

We want to look good in a swimsuit on the beach or wear the dress size we wore in high school. We want to please ourselves when we look in the mirror. Maybe our husbands want us to be more like the women on the internet. All those reasons are selfish.

When we are selfish, we express gluttony, which is the opposite of temperance. Gluttony is all about self-indulgence.

If you are depriving yourself, how can that be gluttony? That is the trap I fell into. It wasn’t during the diet that I overindulged. It was the thought of going on the diet. It was waiting for the perfect time to start. It was that day or week before the diet that gave me fits.

I knew I was going on a diet, so I ate like I was never going to eat again. I went for the sugar and starchy things I knew I was going to miss during the diet plan. I ate and ate until I was miserable. That is gluttony.

During the diet, all I thought about was food, the food I wasn’t getting to eat. I thought about my stomach all the time. I had no room in my heart for anyone or anything else. I thought about the next meal and what I would and would not eat.

I counted calories and wrote down the food. I spent more time making plans about what I would eat than I ever did about service to others. That is gluttony. That lifestyle could not be the one the Lord intended for His children.

If I was to design a diet of temperance, it would be something like this: A temperance diet is not about counting calories and depriving yourself of foods you love.

Temperance is recognizing and listening to the messages from your stomach and your heart. Your body knows when you have had enough. Stop when you get the message.

Remember, this is about eating to live, not living to eat. It is coming to the realization that temporal diets don’t work. You may lose the weight, but once you start eating your old way again, your old body will come back.

You are definitely what you eat. Eating patterns must be consistent and reined in with a gentle fist of temperance.

Being more concerned about health than fashion is the key. Thank the Lord that you are a fluffy size 18 and not anorexic. Thank the Lord that your body is healthy and not a skeleton in a hospital bed trying to recuperate. Allow yourself to enjoy the variety in life.

Eat foods the Lord intended as food and stay away from those filled with man-made chemicals and fillers. Take time to ask the Lord how you are doing with the wonderful gift of your body He has given you. He will have something to say if you listen to the still small voice that sounds like your conscience.

In mid-January, when your new-made commitments are hanging in the balance, remember change is a hard taskmaster. You choose the change and make it happen or the changes will be made without your consent. Choose temperance.  end mark

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