The weather report for Monday, 27 March called for overcast, cloudy skies.  However, this being Antakya, the weather was lightly, slightly overcast, bordering on sunny.

As we had a good-sized, eager team from America, the loading of the lorry was done in an quick and efficient manner.

With a full complement of individuals to assist, drive and translate, all bases covered, we headed out to the fields up the valley from Antakya, just past and under the jurisdiction of the town of Kırıkhan.

When we arrived at Kırıkhan we picked up two individuals assigned to us by the local Social Welfare Department.  For a number of weeks now, we have picked these two young men up.  They are well presented, clean shaven, in their early twenties, but neither has even a basic GCSE equivalent qualification.  One is slim and taller and the other is shorter, and, well, rounder.

In the beginning we did not know why they were to accompany us.  When E, the elder’s wife and the head of the Syrian Refugee work in our fellowship, queried the reason why they were to accompany us, she was told they were there “to help and assist in the distribution”.

This was somewhat incongruous with their activities as they never lent a helping hand, rather, they stood around and watched, took photos, played with their phones and chatted to each other.  In stark contrast, our lorry driver, who is only contracted to drive his lorry, happily and willingly helps in the distribution, handing down the bags and really helpful in a variety of ways.

On one occasion, the tall ‘helper’ wanted to see what was in the bags we were distributing and so we happily let him select the bag he wanted to open, and peruse the contents.

In the course of the distribution, it is our practice to stop for a meal break, and our ‘helpers’ have broken bread with us.

On this day we collected our ‘helpers’ and headed out to the first encampment of the day, situated on a barren corner of a field at the conjunction of two field roads.

This encampment was on my list, but the team hadn’t been there this season, so there was an underlying disconnect – if they haven’t been there, how is it on my list?  

Therefore, when we arrived, it was a bit confused to say the least.  

As we worked our way through who was there, and how many souls made up the various families and providing the appropriate amount of foodstuffs, they, as people are wont to do when receiving something, began to express their gratitude to us.  This was also the encampment where the child was, the one who had the devastating skin disease and had lost all his fingers and toes, and who was suffering terribly.  Because Sovereign Lord, in His Love and Grace used us to help the lad and his family – he is now receiving treatment in Antalya – other relatives, still residing in this encampment, once again expressed their heartfelt gratitude to us.

Now, from the beginning, when people expressed gratitude to us, our response has always been to declare that the assistance, the provision, that which is coming from our hands, is first and foremost the provision of our Loving God; often we will say “give thanks to Jesus”; additionally we declare that the provision has been enabled by the giving of Christians and various churches from around the world.  Not overbearing, but a clear, simple declaration of truth.

And so, at this, our first encampment of the day, as people were expressing gratitude, we, as we do, once again clearly made known the source of the food stuffs they had received.

This was repeated a few times at this encampment as it came up a few times.

Now, one of our ‘helpers’ over heard all this, it seems for the first time.  

This stumbled him greatly.  He accepts that it is acceptable for us to help people – but in his view, it is wholly unacceptable for us to “advertise” (his word not mine) that we are Christians and to say that these provisions come from Churches.  

I find this rather bizarre because on the following day, as I was on my morning constitutional, I walked past the Council buildings here in Antakya and there on the pavement were seven or eight boxes that I concluded were food aid as there was a list of the contents (food items) on the side plus, in rather large print, the name of the Council.  They are, by the same token, likewise making ‘advertisement’ by identifying from whence the aid comes.

I dare say it would be apparent that the problem was not so much the ‘advertisement’, but the mentioning of ‘Christians’ and ‘Churches’ that was the cause of his ‘offence’.

And so, we are now exposed to the true nature of our so-called ‘helpers’, more ‘auditors’ than ‘helpers’.

Now, in Turkish culture, if there is a problem, generally speaking, you will not directly confront someone yourself, but, using a third party, you will let your thoughts be known.  In this instance, this method was employed and one of our number was charged with telling E to cease and desist in proclaiming that we are Christians and that this aid comes from Christians and Churches – in the ‘offended one’s view’ – to stop making ‘advertisement’.

This she flatly refused to accept, arguing that the ‘helpers’ did not have the authority to make such a restriction, that there is freedom of religion in Turkey, that we have been doing this from the beginning of this work and that we would continue to do so.

This, it is fair to say, did not go down well with the ‘offended one’ and his companion.  Therefore, the ‘two’ retreated and proceeded to ring their manger and to inform him that we were ‘making advertisement’ and we ‘would not desist from doing so’.  The manager – the regional director of Social Welfare Department, so informed, declared that he was sending the rural police, the Gendarme, to come out and “stop us”.

Whilst they were making their phone call, E also took advantage at this time to ring one of the people she had talked to in the regional office, the Document Comptroller – a key individual who is the gate keeper of the work that flows to the regional Governor – a central and influential position.  He is also a very religious Muslim, and in their previous meeting, E had shared her faith very openly with him.  That occurred in the district governors office during a previous occasion when she spoke about what we are engaged in, with the regional governor, and various managers, including the director of Social Welfare.  She delineated to the Document Comptroller the current situation as raised by our ‘helpers’ and requested his assistance.

This was all transpiring at the planned second encampment of the day.  

We began our distribution.  

The ‘two’, muttering to each other, stood off to one side, watching, not hostile, but not happy either.  The one who seemed to be most offended seemed to be ‘righteously indignant’ that we were using aid distribution to ‘advertise’ who we are and from whence the aid comes.

I approached them to engage in conversation with them and they informed me that in the Koran it declares that “when doing good, your right hand should not know what your left hand is doing”.  I found this an interesting quote.  I found it a remarkably interesting quote.  

Indeed, after our return and on further investigation, it seems that there is no such reference in the Koran (it may be in the Hadith – ‘the Sayings’, I do not know, but it is not in the Koran proper) but it is clearly in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.  His quote to me was very interesting.  I muse, “Was he inadvertently quoting from the New Testament in his opposition to Christians?”

Anyway, back at the encampment, the ‘helpers’ suggested we say something innocuous and ambiguous – the unstated result would be that the hearers would be ignorant that Christians have anything to do with it.  Again, they unintentionally and subtly declared that the point of stumbling is not in making ‘advertisement’ but in the nature of the advertisement.  

The stumbling blocks were the words ‘Christian’ and ‘Churches’.

It always amazes me how profoundly sensitive and deeply insecure they are, that a simple mention of the source of the aid is deeply offensive.  This may arise from a deeply inbred insecurity about their own beliefs or as an example of the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in, or a mix of the two.

As we were distributing the aid, we were, at the same time, awaiting the arrival of the rural police, the Gendarme.

It is true to say that things had not been running to schedule on this day, and our mid-day meal break was going to be an hour or so late – this is in no-wise noteworthy, truly it is of no importance for the healthy amongst us, but it definitely was not good news for the diabetic amongst us who needs to ingest sustenance at regular intervals.  

Alas, my blood sugar was in decline.

It was when we finished our distribution and the next item on our schedule was our delayed meal break, that I noted the bright blue Gendarme vehicle on the road coming into the village.  I was not alone in noting it as our two ‘helpers’ were on active look-out for it.

On catching a glimpse of the Gendarme vehicle, one of the ‘two’, the one who was the ‘informer’ and the ‘offended one’ ran off to intercept the Gendarme least they carry on looking for us up the road.  

It is the most I’ve seen him do in the time he has been with us.

He intercepted and collected the vehicle and it made its way down the ratty old side track to the location of our distribution.

Two officer class or at least, senior NCO class individuals alighted, followed by a scrawny looking conscript whose task it was to guard the vehicle and be ready for ‘trouble’, holding, as he was, a rather large rifle.

The Gendarme strode over, sour, stern expressions on their faces.

Turkey is dealing with many extremely serious problems; a Kurdish uprising and associated violence and terrorist acts, the presence of millions of Syrian refugees – some of whom are not the ‘cream of society’ and hence prone to doing wrong, others who are active adherents to IS and its bloody ideology, plus all the normal policing problems in a border area related to smuggling, AND YETand yet… here they are, armed and ready to deal with the threat that some people engaged in a ‘good work’, occupied with helping the disadvantaged, vulnerable, destitute individuals, and in the course of doing this are mentioning, or speaking of being Christians and that the aid comes from Christians and Churches

Truly, I am speechless.

Nevertheless, the Gendarme are there, looking serious, and taking it very seriously indeed, and the two of them together take an aggressive tone and approach declaring that we “can not do this”.

One individual, whether it was the ‘specialist’ with the Gendarme or the ‘informer’ – the ‘offended helper’, I do not recall, but they declared that ‘we can not do this’ and E immediately confronted him and declared to his face that she is not listening to him as he is clearly ignorant of the law.

She boldly declared that as a Turk she has the right to share her faith with whomsoever she chooses and they can do nothing about that – it is her right.  She confidently stated that she could call all the Syrians over and present the Good News to them, in front of the Gendarme and that they could not arrest her as it is her legal right to share her faith.

She also stated that we have been helping Syrian refugee field workers for three years and declared that all thoughout that time we have clearly proclaimed who we are and from whence the aid is coming.

She also explained, that although she has this legal right to openly share her faith, that we have not taken advantage of these vulnerable people – we have assisted openly, freely without let or hinderance, only declaring the source when it is appropriate, that the nature and source of this assistance would be honestly known.

The Gendarme wanted to examine the contents of a distribution bag, and so one was selected at random, opened up and the contents scrutinised.  Rice, beans, sugar, tea, oil, bulgar wheat, macaroni, soap, salt, lentils – all very dangerous items in the wrong hands…

Finally, the phone call that the gendarme were waiting for came through – we think from the district governor’s office.  After the call, the senior gendarme turned, his visage now smiling and friendly, and he declared that there was no problem and we were free to carry on.

The ‘two’ – our assigned ‘helpers’- were intimately involved in all these discussions, they were, after all, both the ‘informant’ and the ‘offended party’.  They heard the defence as presented by E, and as well, that the Gendarme did not counter it nor attempt to refute or deny it.  They observed that the Gendarme did not arrest us, nor compel us to desist in speaking of being ‘Christians’ and the ‘Church’.

This interlude with the Gendarme now concluded, we loaded everyone into our vehicles, including the ‘two’, our ‘helpers’, who are to accompany us in our distribution, and, as we declared, made our way to our luncheon location.  My chosen venue for lunch was a tree by the side of the road about a kilometre up the road, halfway between two encampments.  The Gendarme followed us there.

We stopped to eat.

The Gendarme, after pausing and after we offered to share our food with them (declined), continued on their way to other, more serious, business.  We tucked into the lunch provisions: black olives, bread, sliced tmates, cheese, luncheon meat and ayran (a yogurt drink).  

On this occasion, the ‘two’ declined to join with us – but as we insisted that they have something, they did accept the ayran drink.

From there we went to the third encampment of the day and then on to the final one.  The ‘two’, as is their customary practice, were idly standing around, watching.

At the last encampment, I spoke again with them, not about what had transpired, just, friendly chatting with them.  Hopefully, demonstrating the love, compassion and Grace of God.  There was a goat pen at this encampment and one, the ‘informer’ – the ‘offended one’ – explained how he has experience with animals from his childhood in a local village and he put his finger through the wire and the goat suckled it.  He did this a number of times.  Then he did it again and the goat bit him.  Undeterred, he did it again with another goat, and this one drew blood.  At this point he desisted.

This was what I had intended to be our penultimate encampment, but everything was distributed and with nothing left in any of the vehicles, we prepared to depart and return to Antakya.  As we have done in weeks past, the ‘two’ then moved from our vehicle to the lorry.  The lorry driver drops them off on his way through Kırıkhan and we take all of our people back in the van.  It gives the ‘two’ a good opportunity to talk about us, and to have a quiet word and query our lorry driver.

Over the course of the day, it was revealed by various ones that, it seems, there has been a number of complaints about us, not just from the ‘two’ who accompanied us, but from others as well.  As you would expect, the complaints are made by ‘anonymous’ sources.  

It is clear that the complaints do not arise from the recipients of the assistance, nor from the gang-masters who organise and manage the work of the Syrian refugee field workers.  If the gang-masters didn’t want us, they could simply say so.  They are the ones who have to organise and ensure that the recipients are brought back to the encampment when we do the distribution as we do not just dump a load of aid ‘by faith’ – we check ID and family composition at each distribution.  The gang-masters actively facilitate our distribution.

Therefore, the query arises, from whence do the complaints arise?  

I dare say, it is likely to be from those (religious individuals) who are stumbled, offended and frightened by the fact that Christians are doing ‘good works’.  Christians, just doing the good works, is a stumbling block.

If we acted like them and were only helping our co-religionists, that would be okay.  They would understand that.  In their eyes, we would be the same as them, for this is what they would do.  But Christians helping suffering Muslims, this is prima facie offensive and wrong.  The fact that we are open and honest about from whence the aid comes, is compounding the offence, adding insult to injury.  

Additionally, it is probably true that there are Turks who are not receiving assistance and hence are jealous and complain.  In this case, they would be basically reflecting the attitude, “If you aren’t helping me, you shouldn’t help them.”  The fact that, as citizens they have automatic access to much state aid, and, at the end of the day, their simple living conditions are still light years ahead of people living under canvas in a muddy field notwithstanding.

In any event, whatever the motive, the ‘complainers’ are patently content that if we are stopped that the consequence will be that the hungry will remain hungry, that the children will not receive adequate sustenance, that those dwelling in primitive shelters in the fields and with insufficient clothing, that their suffering will continue unabated.  They are content with the suffering of their co-religionists RATHER than suffering the indignity of allowing Christians to help, aid, assist, and assisting without let or hinderance, without some ‘requirements’ being fulfilled by the recipients.  

Clearly, what we are involved in, is aid on the basis of ‘grace’ and not right, nor race, nor religion, nor language – grace (undeserved, unearned, unmerited favour) – motivated by the Love of God.

Indeed, if the ‘complainers’ want us to cease and desist in our activities, if they were prepared to step into the breech and meet the need and from their own pockets and their own resources go out and with their own physical efforts go and help their co-religionists – I would have no problem.  We would happily desist.

Sadly, however, they want us to stop – but they are not willing to pick up the task, to meet the need.  They are content for the deprived to be deprived, the disadvantaged to remain disadvantaged, for the suffering to suffer…

God is not.  

Eternal shame on them – this not as a curse, this not as a prayer, this is not a wish or desire, but this is the natural conclusion of their actions. 

Western nations turning away refugees to maintain their lovely life style should also take note…

Oops…

The moment after you commit something to print and release it, that is the very moment when you realise you need to correct or balance or clarify some point or points.

Alas, this has proven to be true in the case of my recent pontifications regarding weight-loss, Parts 1 & 2.

In describing my story, my struggles and the way forward that I have found, and in selecting what to include and what to leave out, and in deciding what is relevant and what is not, I feel there is a danger that I’ve overstated something(s) and understated something(s).  

Both overstating and understating hinders communication and can have an egregious effect in their own right.

Therefore, let the corrections, refinements, adjustments and additions commence…

It is important to note that what I have propounded in Part 1 & 2 is not a ‘regime’ or a ‘hard and fast approach to eating’ or a ‘inviolable rule’.  It is not intended to be a ‘law’ or ‘task master’.

I believe that I understated the principle of moderation in all things.

The way I proposed is not to be viewed as an absolute, rigid set of rules which are to be adhered to, come what may.  The way described is an attempt to change the narrative, to see the larger picture and to make choices based on what we really feel is essential and important, to make conscious decisions about how we live and eat, rather than passively letting ‘nature take its course’ in our lives.

The ultimate goal is ‘freedom’; freedom from the bondage that many ‘automatic’ decisions and their ‘undesired consequences’ bring into our lives – these ‘unthought’ decisions and ‘inescapable’ consequences that are the polar opposites to what we truly wish and desire. 

When I examined my own struggles with weight-loss and I considered a new approach to eating, I believe that the viewpoint needs to be broader than just a particular moment in time or a singular meal or a special event or even the current day… to examine things within their wider context.

What I eat today is inextricably tied to and in relation to what I ate yesterday, and the day before, and what I will be eating tomorrow.  The overall context has a bearing on the choices I make – both in allowing and disallowing various things.  

How I ‘generally, habitually live and eat’ determines the ultimate outcome of my physical life.  Because of this, my focus in Parts 1 & 2 was on my own inner hedonistic tendencies which lead, invariably towards indulgence and, in my case, obesity (and depressed self-esteem, diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia, high blood pressure…).

But, in choosing a more ‘thought out’ approach to, in this case, eating, in engaging my mind as well as my desires, in seeking to make intelligent choices, it is important to acknowledge that this approach does not equate to a tasteless, boring, life of gruel and unappetising slop.  

My food choices are tasty, enjoyable and delicious.  Choosing wisely does not negate good tasting food.  It does, however, by and large, negate ‘junk food’ and ‘food which is ultimately harmful’ to our bodies.

Additionally, in making these changes in the foundation of my choosing, changes from whence my choices arise, and rationally, consciously thinking about what I eat, this in no-wise excludes the odd ‘treat’ or the odd, rather ‘unintelligent’ choice.

In determining how I am to live and eat, the way forward is about balance and about moderation.  

Unfortunately, those of us who have in the past indulged in our hedonistic tendencies, can, as a result, run the opposite direction so fast and so far as to be in danger of erring on the opposite extreme – asceticism.  This, too, is an error along with its opposite, hedonism; both are immoderate.

And so, for instance, if today I allow myself a special ‘treat’, something which is eaten solely for the pleasure of it with precious little nutritional benefit, this is best viewed within the context of my general overall eating habits.  

I suggest that it is a question of context:  

“Is it truly a ‘special, one-off treat’ or has it become a tasty part of my daily eating?”  

“Is my weight inexorably going upwards, downwards or is it waffling about?” 

“How is this ‘special treat’ in regard to my weight?”  

“Why do I desire to eat this?”

My eating choices are best viewed in the context of my ‘general, overall eating’ and according to the proportion of ‘special treats’ that I have allowed myself in recent time.

It is prudent to acknowledge that the danger of ‘special treats’ comes when they become part of an uncontrolled aspect of my eating or, in other words, the ‘special treats’ simply have become incorporated into my daily eating routine.  

Special treats need to be just that… ‘special’.

But if I rigidly exclude all ‘treats’ and if I then live a frugal, joyless, tasteless existence, it will be incredibly difficult to maintain, and at the same time it will be wholely unappealing to others who also struggle to lose weight.  

Ultimately, it will be a monkey on my back, a scourge with which I beat myself.  And whilst it may produce a ‘healthy weight’, it will also, most likely, also produce an unhealthy spirit’.

Personally, I have a range of weight that I waffle about in.  I rarely see the low side – my goal weight.  But there is a point upon which when I reach or get within a reachable distance of that point, that I will demand more attention, more discipline, more ‘denying myself’ to attain the prize of a healthy weight and good self esteem.

Mine is not a story of ‘solved it, done it, it is a wrap’.  

For me, it is an on-going process.  I struggle with temptation.  On occasions I struggle a great deal, and on other occasions, I struggle not enough.

At times I am too generous with my ‘special treats’.  

Currently (as of this writing), my weight is down, but, due to my build and inclinations, it can go up in a frighteningly short period of time.  For me, with my body-type and temperament, I prefer to weigh myself daily – to try and nip in the bud any dangerous tendencies…. I find it is easier to recover when the discrepancy between what I am and what I want to be is as small as possible.

Hence, the questions that I ask myself are more like:  

“How am I doing over-all – generally?”

“What is my base line, how am I habitually eating – what are my eating habits?”

“What do I ‘normally’ eat in the course of a day / week?”

“Why am I wanting to consume this?”

I emphasised the last question earlier (“why?”), as it relates to my motivation and the danger of my hedonistic tendencies.  This is a very important question and it needs to be asked, but, so too are the preceding questions.

Sometimes the answers to these self-queried questions provoke a more determined approach to my eating choices.  This is especially so if I have wavered and strayed from my own defined path, the path that will produce the results that I truly desire in my life.

One other point that I fear went either unexpressed or understated was the essential nature that what I am proposing is not to be viewed as a short term diet, or time-limited regime.

Diets all come to an end, and then the problem of weight gain returns.

Rather than a ‘short term’ diet or ‘regime’ what I have found to be essential is to fundamentally ‘change the way I habitually eat’.  

In changing the underlying way I eat, there is no end point – this is how I have now decided to live and to eat.  The fundamental choice is not to be led by my passions nor by my desires, or in plain speak, my fundamentally hedonistic, nature; no, rather my choice is to be led, with my mind, with my will, with my logic, with all that I am, to a selected, chosen, intelligent way forward.  In a proactive manner, I am determining the way to live, the way I choose to live and that this is a life style, for a life time and is a life long decision, with no end point.

I must stress that this does not equate to a life of culinary paucity; nor a life of sustenance destitute of any pleasure or joy.

It is self evident that if I establish too rigid a regime, if I determine to be too restrictive, the day will come when temptation will present itself, it will be at a point when I am a feeling weak, and I will give in.  Afterwards I will be overwhelmed with the guilty pleasure so released and flooded with guilt for the choice I’ve taken and also feeling guilty for enjoying the choice and its associated pleasure that I have experienced.  

The danger then, is once fallen off the wagon, as it were, I will fail to climb back on.

Unfortunately, this too, is attested to by the many.

So, I need to craft a regime that I can live with, something I can actually implement, not just in the short term, but, most importantly, in the long term. 

This is the goal.  

However, I recognise the ever present danger that I can identify a new life style which is primarily healthy and good, but also tends to be so rigid or so ‘high and lifted up’ that, at the end of the day, I can never attain it, then this ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ life style is destined to fail under its own weight and tyranny.

Flexibility over rigidness, in essence, moderation over extremism.

 I described the desired ‘new eating life style’ as ‘primarily’ healthy.  This will form the base line, the norm, that which is to be aimed for, the goal.  But, always in the context and understanding that ‘life happens’.  I must build in an allowance for exceptions, for the odd ‘special treats’ on occasion.  

Life happens – I need to be prepared for it and have a practical, reasonable, pre-conceived, preplanned, predetermined means to cope with it without breaking the new ‘eating life style’.

There are things which can be done to reinforce and assist in maintaining my defined ‘healthy eating life style’.  

For example, I know when I am hungry, or in diabetic-speak, when I go low blood sugar (but this is not limited to diabetics, it is true for the many), when I am hungry, I am far more likely to make bad food choices.  Often, self-control is ‘on a break’ or is the first casualty of hunger (low blood sugar).  Often ‘portion size controls’ are also off-line in moments like this.

The solution is simplicity itself.  It involves proactively managing myself.  

I labour to know what are acceptable and helpful snacks to ensure that debilitating hunger is kept at bay.  

Crisps, chocolate bars, rice cakes, and the whole plethora of ‘snack foods’, most ‘fast foods’ and ‘convenience foods’ are the absolutely worst things anyone can consume.   These foods, in addition to being exceptionally attractive, tasty, salty or sweet; in addition to being empty of any meaningful positive nutrition and liberally laced with prodigious amounts of fat, oil, salt, sugar, and untold, uncounted, additives, these snacks have the ability to spike our blood sugar (true for all people, not just diabetics) which is then followed shortly thereafter by a dramatic plunge in available blood sugar (again, for all people, not just diabetics).  This experience follows a predictable, known course – an initial satiation and feeling good and full on the immediate consumption of the ‘junk food’ followed after a while with a flash return of hunger (plunging blood sugar values), with all the associated weaknesses in choice-making and portion control that that brings in its wake.  In short, a brief moment of feeling good followed by a return of the hunger and its associated side-effects.

Therefore, I need to be broadly aware of my general state, and as hunger begins to rear its ugly head, to have a small, appropriate snack to maintain the balance at hand.  This is all that is required.  It is surprising the effect of a relatively small, but appropriate snack can have in reversing the hunger affects and staving off the soon return of hunger.  And a wise choice does not facilitate a plunging of the blood-sugar afterwards.

This works for non-diabetics as well as us diabetics.  

The goal here is to make it easier for us to make the right choices, the choices that when we are satiated and in full possession of all our facilities we desire and chose.

Another straight-forward way to maintain control of my eating is to make decisions when my hunger has been slaked.  

For example, if I know that I will be going out at an odd time, to meet friends and have a bite to eat together and because of the timing, I can predict that I will be hungry when it is time to order; and I can predict, in my hungry state I will be tempted to eat that which is ‘appealling’ rather than that which I should eat; and I can predict that I will be rather weak in regard to portion control… I can anticipate all this in that set of circumstances and hence, I know that it will be difficult for me to stay true to that which I desire.

Therefore, earlier in the day, and after I’ve eaten, when I am full and in full possession of my facilities,  is the time to decide what I should or should not select later, when my hunger will be returning or dominating.  Making that decision, whilst full, will enable me to do so as I would desire.  Therefore, before I leave to meet my friends, my “chosen food choice” decision has already been  made.  

When I arrive to meet and eat with my friends, since I’ve already decided what I will eat – there remains no choice left to make (when hunger may be affecting my ability to make a choice that I ultimately will approve).  At the time, with my friends in the restaurant, all that remains for me to do, is to simply sustain the decision previously made.  

It is easier to sustain a good choice rather than make a good choice in a time of weakness.

Another helpful act to facilitate this, is to vocalise my choice beforehand.  Interestingly, by vocalising the choice, it empowers the decision.  I can think a whole raft of thoughts – good and bad, but, only when my thought or decision is uttered, when spoken, even if only to myself, will it then take on a whole different complexion and meaning.  It become real and fixed on speaking it.

This is why, in Holy Writ, it speaks of those who ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (this is the essential, elemental starting point) but it continues to state that those who so believe must also ‘confess with their mouths,’ for this expression of what they have ‘believed’ then establishes it.

If we declare what we intend to eat to another individual, that also reinforces our ability to keep to that which we have chosen.  It forms a basic degree of accountability – I said it, they know it, if I vary from it, I will declaring my inability to make a wise choice when faced with temptation.

This is about really about choice.  

This is about the basis we make our choices from.  

This is about being in real control of our lives.  

This is about living an ‘abundant life’, a ‘chosen life’, a life determined not by passion, desire or by my underlying hedonistic nature, but according to my mind, my will – a reasoned, balanced and selected choice.

To reiterate that which I felt was deficient in the earlier promulgation: 

  • moderation’ in all things, even to this approach to eating, 
  • grace’ (not legalism) – how I chose to eat must be able to accommodate the vagaries of life 
  • new way to live that is sustainable’, that is, it must be a way to live day by day and over the long haul
  • identify and apply strategies’ which will enable me to do what I have chosen to do in the rough and tumble of normal human interaction.

Again I declare:

Eat and enjoy.  

Enjoy what is eaten.  

Enjoy the odd treat even.  

Know that ‘life happens’ and make practical, realistic provision for it.

But I must not eat merely to enjoy nor allow my hedonistic nature to drive or initiate my eating.

Oh the heady days of 2007, we were fresh in the city of Antakya, which was then boasting a population of 144,000 souls.  It definitely had a small town, back-water, forgotten feel to it.

Things, services, foods that you would take for granted in the larger cities, or even the small towns in the west of the country were unheard of, unimagined here.  It was like stepping back in time.

Those were the halcyon days before the strife, upheaval and devastation that was introduced with the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.  Many western commentators rushed to view the up-risings from their own western, democratic, liberal perspective and world view.

In the ‘good old days’ before the ‘Arab Spring’, Turkey was on very good terms with its neighbour Syria.  Visa-free travel was introduced and Turks freely went to Syria and Syrians freely came to Turkey.

It was not uncommon to see cars with Arabic number plates from Syria.  Nor was it uncommon to see taxis declaring a service from Aleppo to Antakya.

Unfortunately the ‘visa-free’ travel did not extend to my nationality.  And whilst my Turkish friends could travel to or through Syria on a whim, if I was to contemplate such a journey I would need to plan, go to a Syrian consulate or Embassy and obtain a visa before travel.

And the cost of a tourist visa wasn’t cheap.

I had friends who travelled to Aleppo, saw the ancient citadel, wandered the exotic souks and enjoyed the delights of the city.

That experience is gone now.  The war has reduced Aleppo and the ancient citadel to ruins.  The Byzantine maze of the souks are damaged, deserted; what remains are the battered and tattered shells of what they once were. 

I never made it to Syria.

I have no plans to go anytime soon.

But, it seems over the course of the last five or so years, slowly, slowly, Syria has been migrating here.  

They came, not using ‘visa-free’ travel, those days are long gone, nay, they simply jumped over the border – once just a simple, low barbed wire fence.  

The majority came fleeing the violence, the indiscriminate chaos, death and destruction raining down and being meted out by all sides on all sides.

Others fled for a respite, fighters and wounded fighters alike.  They come, and in the fullness of time, return.

Now when I walk the streets of Antakya, where once I occasionally heard Arabic, now, I occasionally hear Turkish.

The people in the streets, frequenting the shops or in the most modern of shopping malls that graces our town centre are liberally laced with the dress and complexion of our guests from neighbouring Syria.

Many of these new-comers are opening up shops, bakeries, restaurants and so on.  Where once all the signs in the city were in Turkish, now there is a growing accumulation of Arabic Script signs.

It seems I did not go to Syria, but Syria has come to me.

At the end of Part 1, I summed up my self definition with two, socially repugnant words: ‘obese’ and ‘hedonistic eating’.  

It was my realisation that my fundamental problem could be summed up with the provocative and evocative word ‘hedonism’ with regards to my approach to eating.

‘Hedonism’, like ‘obese’, is not a word to be lightly bandied about – it is a very serious word with a serious meaning and grave implications.

For me, the realisation that I was not just enjoying what I was eating, but I was eating to enjoy, that brought the understanding.  It dawned on me that I initiate snacking and eating for the sole enjoyment of it.  This was an epiphany, a revelation, a ‘light bulb’ moment.  

The best word to describe approach is ‘hedonism’.  Hedonism is the notion that ‘pleasure’ is the highest good, or to live a life in pursuit of pleasure or a lifestyle devoted to pleasure-seeking.  Not the best of life motivations, methinks.

Now, to be fair, I was not wholly sold out on and living in this manner.  But there is a spectrum to hedonism, and I was definitely being motivated by my desire to consume food for the pleasure, for the comfort, for the sheer joy it provided.

When I eat, the food being consumed is enjoyed, but the danger comes when my ‘motivation’ is primarily to eat for the pleasure that consumption brings.

When I eat and enjoy and when I eat to enjoy,  ‘enjoyment’ plays a part, but the motivation, the small but distinct difference in the eating experience makes the crucial distinction – is the  ‘what, when, and how much’ I eat simply a part of the experience,  or is it the goal of the experience?

How many times have I consumed something, not because I was hungry, nor because I ‘needed’ something, but because I was simply bored?  I was ‘bored’ and eating to alleviate my boredom was what I chose to do. 

Or have I eaten simply because ‘the food was there,’ or it was something that I really enjoyed and desired?  Eating driven by proximity.

Or have I eaten because I was tempted with something which I should never eat, but there it was and it looks so good?  Wherein is my ‘self control’?  Wherein is doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing?

Or have I eaten because I was feeling low and I desired some ‘comfort eating’?  We all sense the need for comfort – but where do I turn for that necessary comfort?

The problem is not so much my eating, but the ‘why’ I am eating – the motivation in my choosing to eat.  

If my motivation is to seek pleasure, to bring myself joy, to engage in some comfort eating then I am dicing with hedonism.  It is not necessarily ‘hedonism’, but there is a danger of sliding into a pattern, a habit of indulging my pleasures and passions and giving way to my inherent hedonistic tendencies.

‘Hedonism’ is plainly the pursuit of pleasure, or pleasure-seeking, in whatever form it takes; it could be music, films, sports and it could very easily be food…

When do I lose control over my eating or my food choices?  When do I consume, imbibe, or otherwise indulge myself?  Why do I succumb to temptation?

Often it is when I say, “deep down, I have a desire (or want) for…” and follow that primordial urge.

From time to time there are various dishes and foods that we long for, and this is not a problem, but it can be a ‘stumbling block’ when what I am seeking is not the dish in question, but the joy and pleasure its’ consumption will bring me.  In this case that ‘primordial urge’ is simply to consume it for the pleasure, for the joy it brings.  

The subtle difference between a simple, natural longing for some dish or food and an hedonistic passion boils down to the ‘motivation’ – the ‘why’ we desire it and to a certain extent, our ability to walk away from it.

Why I want to eat it, how often I will partake of it and the amount that I will consume of it all form part of the appraisal of my eating and my motivation.

I firmly believe it is right, proper and good to fully, wholly enjoy the food that I consume.  

The problem arises when that enjoyment is the goal, when the motivation that is the determining factor in what, when and how much I consume, is the pleasure I derive from it.

Personally, I gain weight incredibly easily.  I only have to break from my routine in the minutest way, and I will gain weight.  As I said, this is a great blessing in a time of famine, but in a time of plenty, I need to manage this blessing lest it become my own, self-created curse.

I find eating routines to be very helpful.

As a diabetic, I need to ensure my blood sugar neither rises to too high, nor plunges too low.  To avoid ‘too high’, I need to be careful in what foods I eat, for some are natural ‘blood sugar’ accelerators.  To avoid ‘too low’ blood sugar, timing is essential – I need to consume a ‘slow-release’ food at the appropriate time to maintain the balance.  

A non-diabetic can benefit from a like approach – non-diabetics can experience low-blood sugar slumps and it is never healthy for anyone to have sugar highs.  What we eat, when and how frequent call all affect our health, well-being and can be crucial in how we handle the vagaries of life.

For most people, portion size is a small and yet powerful way to contain how much is being consumed.  Another meaningful aid is setting a simple rule of ‘one filling of the plate’.  This is especially helpful when the decision is made before the wonderful, delicious, savoury food is before you and filling your nose with all the tantalising and captivating smells.  This pre-decision can aid in ensuring you control you intake, and yet full enjoy it.  If you are determined to only have one plateful, then you can determine to eat it slowly and enjoy it in the process.

For my meals, I have procured a small plate – a small plate brimming full is more satisfying than a large plate with a meagre portion occupying a small segment of the vast space available.  

Additionally, it is easier to keep to small portion sizes on a small plate.  Once the small plate is full, there is no more room.  On a large plate there is a natural tendency to ladle out a wee bit more because ‘it looks so inadequate’.

As mentioned, one helpful approach is to eat slowly, taking small bites which can be fully consumed and paying attention to the flavours, chewing fully.  When you slow down and savour the food, you are more aware of all the flavours and derive more satisfaction from it.  

I must confess that rather regrettably, in times past, the food was moving so quickly into my mouth, and was passing down my gullet at such a rate that it resulted in not much attention nor awareness of the flavours and tastes of the food.  

However, the goal now is to slow down, savour it, appreciate it and to know it.  Fully masticated, and properly enjoyed, it makes the wee bit eaten of more value than the vast quantities that I previously vacuumed up.

At the same time, it gives the gut more time to report back that it is full.  When speed-eating, by the time the gut says, “I’m full,” a whole load of food has already streaked passed the mouth door and is inexorably proceeding on its way…

For me and my body / temperament type, I have the ability to store any extra calories away, therefore, I make it a principle not to eat after the evening meal.  In the evening my activity level natural diminishes, and hence any extra calories will be surplus to requirements and for me and those like me, it will be stored away for a rainy day.

For those of different body / temperament types, you will be able to judge where your balance point is, in order to maintain your weight.  If you are gaining weight, simply spoken, you are still eating too much.  By considering smaller portions, less frequent eating, being aware of late-night eating and being wary of wonton or habitual snacking, you can enable yourself to eat, enjoy and maintain a healthy weight.

What I have determined, ultimately, for me, is that the key is not so much what I eat, or how often I eat, or some kind of diet – nay, for me, the key is ‘why’ I eat.  These are all important, ‘what I eat’, ‘how often I eat’, but I have found that the motivation, the ‘why’ is the key and determining factor for me.

When I cease allowing my inherited, inbred, natural hedonism to influence, dominate or dictate, then I can both properly enjoy all I consume and keep it in balance and, most importantly, in control.

When my weight is where it should be, my blood pressure is normal, my triglycerides are normal and my blood sugar is ‘well controlled’.  There are real benefits for me to keep my weight in check.

But to do this I must be disciplined all the time.  

My body is fantastically efficient.  If I indulge, I will gain weight.  This I have observed many times as I have indulged many times….

I am challenged by many references in Holy Writ, the call to ‘deny myself’ – not of something necessary, but to deny myself the tyranny of my underlying hedonistic passions and desires.  To deny myself that which results in my self-esteem plummeting or health problems manifesting is not a hardship or something to be shirked, but to be welcomed and embraced.  

It is the way to life; full, abundant, enjoyable life.

Then there are the references to ‘self control’ – self control being expressed not to my harm but to my profit.  When I abstain from that tasty, and often for me, greasy treat which is brimming full of fat and sugar and has precious few nutrients, I lose nothing of profit, but gain much.  

I eat every day.

I dare say I enjoy my food more than most.  The smallish portions that I have a few times a day, I enjoy.  I enjoy what I consume, I am nourished, my weight is under control and I feel good about myself.

Jesus said that we are called to ‘freedom’.

I am free from being driven and controlled by my passions and desires.  Hence, I am also free from the consequences of over-indulgence.  

I eat.  I enjoy.  I enjoy the fruit of self-discipline.  At a healthy weight, I look better.  Although I never felt ‘bad’ in the former days, when I look at myself now, I feel better. 

Oh, and did I mention… I enjoy the food I eat.  

The opposite of ‘hedonism’ is not the absence of pleasure, nor is it extolling misery and suffering… the opposite of hedonism is choosing to live wisely, not by passion but by wisdom.

By eschewing hedonism and allowing my mind to dictate the motivation, the controlling factor, in my living and my choosing…  I can fully enjoy my food and my drink and not entertain the bondage hedonism inescapably brings… God enables us to enjoy our food and to take pleasure in our eating – but not that the enjoyment becomes the determining factor, the goal of eating, a form of bondage…

Because I am continuously addressing the underlying motivation behind my eating, because I address the elephant in the room, my fundamental hedonistic tendencies, then eating properly and maintaining a healthy weight becomes something that can be sustained over the long term.  

If I were to entertain the query: “When is indulging in hedonism advisable, or good or desirable?”  The answer to this rather rhetorical question is easy – “ah, never”.  

I recognise that in indulging my hedonistic tendencies, I may enjoy the experience, but, inescapably, I reap the extra fat, the clogged arteries, the negative impact on my health and my self-esteem.  I gain nothing of value except the transitory, momentary, fleeting joy of the act of over-indulgence.

Losing weight is not about diets, special or otherwise.  Losing weight is not about a ‘superfood’ or a ‘new tablet’ or ‘exotic regime’ or ‘eastern miracle’.  Generally everyone recognises that all diets come to an end, and when they do, our observation declares that the weight, slowly or quickly, piles back on.

It is my contention that losing weight can be sustained in the long term by changing my approach to consumption, by addressing the question of my underlying motivation, by focusing on the ‘why’ rather than on the ‘what’.  In doing so, I have the tools and outlook to enable me to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

All things in moderation – so says the Bible.

All things in moderation – so say the public health pronouncements that I’ve heard all my life.  

It is true.

Do this and live.

But if I allow my hedonistic nature to call the shots or simply to advise on the way forward, this becomes a perennially unreachable goal.

The choice is ours, in how we live and what we choose to motivate us…

The title of this two part blog is inextricably bound with the notion of losing weight.  However, to be concerned with losing weight, you first must have excess weight to lose.  Whilst many seem to share this concern, it is not universal.  For instance, our younger son has the opposite challenge, he actively labours to gain weight.  Personally, I do not have his challenge.

My whole life I’ve been a ‘chunky’ individual.  At no point in my 64 years have I been athletic, svelte, lean, muscular or trim.  Oh, there have been occasions, when I’ve lost weight, but then, I often looked more ‘sickly’ than ‘lean and mean’.

In my beginning, I was born prematurely and, except for the extraordinary efforts of an extremely dedicated nurse, I would not have survived.  You could say that my physical preparation for this world was not fully completed on my entrance.  I was, if you will, somewhat ‘half-baked’.

Additionally, I was born in a time when it was not only acceptable but it was the ‘norm’ that people would smoke whilst pregnant and there was no impediment to imbibing of alcohol; all of which my dear mother did, as virtually all mothers at that time did.  

These combined together, did not give my physical body the best start in life.

What else can I say?  By temperament, I am a sloth.  I can sit, remarkably still, for extended times.  Additionally, I, by nature, am profoundly lazy.  Exercise, sports, anything requiring ‘effort’ held and, truth be told, continues to hold, no appeal to me.

Ah, but fatty foods, deep fried foods, these have held and continue to hold a prodigious, immense appeal to me.

Thus, as I grew, and left to my natural inclinations, I progressed from being a ‘chunky’ child to an overweight teenager and then to a fat young adult.  As time rolled by and the years mounted up, I proceeded to very fat until I arrived in the territory of being ‘obese’.  

This progression took over forty years to achieve.

Obese is not a word that we like to use, nor even acknowledge in polite society.

Nevertheless, when you look at the medical charts and after you hit a certain weight, size, waist measurement, BMI or whatever scale or measure you choose, you qualify as ‘obese’.  

I was obese.  There is no pride in admitting that – but it was true.

At that time people would never have described me as being ‘obese’.  As a society, we do not do that.  They would have said that I was big, fat, portly, big boned, full-figured or overweight or some euphemism to avoid the socially unacceptable term ‘obese’.  We simply do not call anyone ‘obese’, not even behind their back – it isn’t done.  

But I was obese.

Even thought I was obese, I fit right in in society.  There were many as large as I was, some larger, others less than myself, but, clearly on the same road.  I looked ‘normal’ – big, portly, etc…

Unfortunately obesity does not travel alone and has its own entourage, its own travelling companions.  Number one, a person’s self-esteem takes a violent knock, for you know exactly how ‘big’ you are, and all joking aside, you don’t find pleasure in it.  

As a man, I tried to obscure or camouflage my girth.  “Can’t be done,” I hear you muttering to yourself, and you are correct.  Nevertheless, I attempted it.  Why do you think I wore neck ties?  Does it work?  Of course not… nevertheless…

Now it is interesting that I never felt ‘bad’ when I was obese.  As one who did not engage in physical exertion, I never felt that I couldn’t do something or was winded when attempting something.  I simply never did, nor tried to do, those things.  

Truth be told, I simply felt ‘normal’.

For me it was all very ‘natural’ and ‘normal’.  As my obesity had developed slowly, over time, my sense of ‘normal’ modified with time.

I did not exercise.  

I loved eating.

There was a lot of food that was extremely appealing to me, and often, when so confronted I would only semi-seriously ponder “why have a wee bit, when it tastes soooooo good?”  I rarely even tried to give a good answer to that query.  Moderation wasn’t a primary consideration or concern.

Therefore, in the place of one portion, a portion and a half would be ordered.  Or if I settled for a single portion (which would be enough all by itself) I would follow it up with additional items (which, individually were sufficient in themselves to make a fulsome meal).  Often, the resultant combination together formed an over-indulgent feast.

And so I lived and as the days, weeks, months, years, nay, decades, flowed by, I continued in this manner… slowly growing in my girth and weight…

But, there was a price to pay. 

Silently, sleeping in my body, buried in my DNA, was a genetic predilection for diabetes and its’ travelling companions, hypertriglyceridemia with an added propensity towards hypertension.

In the fullness of time, after an extended period, and a lifetime of fleeing exercise and indulging my culinary passions and, significantly, before even reaching my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed with diabetes and hypertriglyceridemia.  My doctor informed me that on the test for my triglycerides, the machine was unable to measure it because it so high it was beyond the machine’s ability to quantify. 

Now, before my diagnosis, there were times when I was feeling bad about the unflattering state of my weight and consequently, through great effort and determination, I had lost tens of kilos.  However, after the time of ‘losing the weight’ was over, and I went back to eating without the harsh encumbrances of restricted eating, I observed that slowly, and sometimes not so slowly, the weight came inexorably back.  In fact, I noted that in the fullness of time my weight would reach and often surpass the former high point.  

Losing weight took great effort and much time, the reversal took no effort and little time. 

But now, with my diagnosis, in plain terms, I had simply reaped the fruit of my life-style.  With this diagnosis I now needed, not for my ‘self-esteem’ sake, but for health’s sake, to lose weight and keep it lost.  I had proven in the past that I had the ability to lose weight, but herein was the true challenge, to lose it and keep it lost…

I have observed in life that some people, due to a combination of their metabolism, activity level and appetite, seem to always be slim, trim and ‘looking good’.   As a result some people can look at these individuals who are ‘naturally slim’ by virtue of their build, inclination and natural predilection and can attribute ‘virtue’ to them because of this.  By the same token, people can look at those of us who, by virtue of our build, inclination and natural predilection are over-weight, fat or obese as being somehow purposely indolent, slothful and, well, lacking in ‘virtue’.  And yet, both can adhere to the same basic lifestyle.

Be that as it may, I, as one in the latter camp, was faced with a very real health condition.  The equation was simplicity itself – if I believed the diagnosis, then, basically, I needed to lose weight, eat right, exercise, and, hence, live… otherwise… well, it was not a pretty picture (amputations, blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, an increased likelihood of an early, painful death).

Without labouring this account with all the details, weight was lost.  But the challenge was two-fold, losing weight (track record of being able to do this) and the second, most important challenge, keep the weight off (I hadn’t managed that in the past).

Therefore, let’s leap forward fourteen years…

Without question, losing weight is difficult.  But maintaining a healthy weight is the elusive, golden prize that has proven to be almost outside of our collective grasp.  

In our world there is a vast marketplace that has come into being to sell the dream, ‘the way to lose weight’.  There are a myriad of methods, programmes, plans, books, diets galore, self-help, support groups and it seems the list continues to grow and expand by the day.

All these diets, books, methods and groups declare that losing weight is a problem, and, by and large and for most people, it is a surmountable problem.  

Whist it is true that losing weight is ‘a’ very real problem, it is not ‘THE’ problem.  The real challenge is in maintaining a healthy weight, over time.

It seems that my body is designed to thrive in times of famine.  When I eat something, whether a ‘healthy’ something or an ‘unhealthy’ something, my body extracts all the energy hidden within the food and, anything surplus to the momentary requirements is immediately stored away against that ‘rainy day’, against the future ‘famine’ that my body is perennially preparing for.

I have friends whose bodies seem to be rather cavalier with regards to saving for the future.  These are individuals with a combination of a naturally more active life-style, a natural inclination for better foods and seemingly with no compulsion towards the worst of foods.  These friends of mine are able to eat without regard to what or when or how much.  I’ve seen individuals tuck into a large plate of macaroni at 10:30 at night, as they are peckish, and polish it off and still be the slim and trim individual that they are.

If I did likewise, my diligent, hard working, frugal, forward-planning body would tuck every excess calorie away for future consumption.

Alas, we are not all alike.  Some can say it is not ‘fair’ but whoever considers life to be fair?  

To be balanced in my evaluation, let me declare that in a famine, I would be living off the fat of my own body whilst my slim and trim friends would be wasting away…

So, how can I, prone as I am to be a porky, tubby, big, ‘full figured’ individual, lose weight and keep it off?  

My body has one goal, and I another.

I feel emboldened to write this as I have, by the Grace of God, lost weight and kept it off, with highs and lows, for 14 years and counting.

————————————————————————————————

We all know the theory on how to lose weight – eat less.  

Exercise is good, beneficial and helpful, but the key is what and how much we put in our mouths on a daily basis.

It is oh-so-simple to say “eat less” – and, for a limited time, it can be relatively ‘easy’ to achieve.  There are all sorts of diets and special regimes that work in the short term but they are all fundamentally unsustainable over the long haul… the ‘cabbage diet’ comes immediately to mind.

Throughout my sojourn on this terrestrial ball, I’ve never subscribed to any of the various ‘diets’, pills’, ‘potions’, ‘fads’ or ‘plans’.  Because of my predilection for fat, greasy and fatty foods, I did gaze longingly at the Aiken’s diet – but I was fundamentally unconvinced that my body-type would lose weight on such an attractive and desirable regime.

Rather, it has always seemed that the most reasonable, and the most sustainable path was to take the age-old dietary advice given to everyone, the same advice which I have heard throughout my life, which is to eat a sensible, healthy, balanced diet and to get regular exercise.  

Now, diagnosed with diabetes, a sensible, balanced diet and avoiding the foods which spike blood sugar levels seemed the most practical and sustainable  way forward.

Oh, and also adding to my routine regular daily exercise (the very thing I have consistently avoided all my life).  Because of my age and fitness level, I have of late, adopted walking (briskly) with a goal of 10,000 steps a day as my regular, daily exercise activity.

As I have declared, my body is profoundly efficient.  I do not require a great amount of food to maintain my weight.  

Herein, then, is the problem.  

When we eat, it is not just for nutrition, not just for the maintainance our bodies, but eating is also a social activity, a pleasurable activity and often, a comforting activity.  

There are multiple reasons why we consume food – it is not just to live.

LET ME SAY at this juncture, that what I’m about to share is my experience and reflects me and where I am at.  Please do not take offence, especially if you feel that my experience or understanding bears no bearing on you or your situation.  We are all different.  We are all at different places.  

This is my story….

For me, the realisation that I was not just enjoying what I was eating, but I was also, and sometimes primarily, eating to enjoy.  It dawned on me that I would initiate snacking and eating for the sole purpose of the enjoyment it brings.  This was an epiphany, a revelation, a ‘light bulb’ moment which captured my imagination.  

It was also rather disturbing.

There is a profoundly emotive word to describe this approach to life and eating.  It is not a word that is easily or lightly used, and yet, I have chosen to use it to describe my case as it is the most accurate.  

The word is ‘hedonism’.

This reflects the motivation of my eating, the ‘why’ I ate what I ate, and when, and how much.  This understanding shifted the focus off of the ‘what’ I consume and placed it fully on the ‘why’ I would eat.

This was a key revelation for me.  The ‘what’ – that is what foods I chose – is important.  The ‘when’ or ‘how often’ I indulge is also important.  But, the ‘why’, or the ‘motivation’ – it is this that drives both the ‘what I choose to eat’, the ‘when’,  the ‘how much’and the ‘how frequently’.

In Part 2, I explore how my understanding has practically affected the mundane task of maintaining a healthy weight state.

Earlier I described myself with the pariah word ‘obese’.  I now add to my self description, the equally unappealing, and often unspoken, unacknowledged pariah word ‘hedonistic’ to describe my approach to eating.


Strange, we’ve only been gone for three months, and whilst most things are unchanged, yet, there are subtle, and sometimes niggly wee changes.

I strode out today to check on some things. I left our home in the old quarter of the city, following, for me, familiar narrow ways – I can not call them lanes, as they are very narrow, the width of a car and most of these ‘ways’ will never see an automobile as it would be impossible to turn into them.

The houses are all old, courtyard style housing. The homes are surrounded by either the high walls of the dwelling or simply by high walls. There is no notion as to what my be lurking behind the soaring walls. The walls themselves are built of either rough fieldstone or plastered rough fieldstone.

But the entrances are almost universally constructed of dressed stones, often with a lovely stone arch topping the doorway.  The residence may be humble and crumbling, but the doorways, even when decrepit with age, look impressive.

I made my way through the maze of narrow lanes and came out just above the location for the ‘cable car base station’.  

Many years ago a project was initiated to create a cable car to take tourists from the market streets in the old town to the top of the mountain where they would be treated to an expansive view, cooling breezes and a nice tea house to relax in.

Such was the plan and all was going well, very well indeed – that is until they began excavating for the station in the old town.

After digging down less than a metre the first archeological remains came to light.  The deeper they went, the more layers of the ancient city were unveiled.  Back, further and further in time as they went deeper.  There, at about the 2 ½ or 3 metre level they found several in-situ mosaics.

What to do?

Lift, leave, remove, demolish – all the options were no doubt discussed somewhere – and as the months, and now years lumbered by, these discussions must have been happening very slowly.

Maybe, they raised it because of me… I do not know, but the gate has bars on the top half, so, one can comfortably gaze into the excavation from the gate.

Last autumn, just before we left, I went by, as I do, to observe the progress, if any. Last year the archaeologists had been back; more digging, conservation and stabilisation. Then, as winter approached they did two things. They covered everything in the great excavation pit with tarpaulins – I suppose to protect from the onslaught of winter (for the first time over the years that the excavation has been open). The other thing they did was raise the tin fence around the site so one can no longer peer over the top to see what has been or is being done.

Uh, nothing has changed over the winter…..

As in life, change often comes slowly…


Tuesday and Thursday are the days when the team goes an hour up the valley, to the encampment, pitched in the shadow of the religiously conservative town of Kırıkhan. This encampment hosts the tent where our ministry to the Syrian refugee children is done. We’ve named this ministry ‘The Haven of Love and Compassion’.

The goal of the ‘Haven’ is multi-faceted:

Firstly, to demonstrate love and compassion to the children, as the name we have given this work indicates. They have experienced so much suffering, devastation, horror, deprivation and pain. Our desire is to expose them to the Love of God.

Secondly, we desire to bring a degree of ‘normality’ to their lives. Games are organised, that they may be free to act and be children; laughing, jumping, playing together. Often the children are burdened with very adult responsibilities being imposed and thrust upon them. We desire to offer a respite, a brief time when it is okay for them to be simple children, doing childish, things without responsibility, obligation and without fear of chastisement and punishment.

Thirdly, as many of these children have been displaced for years, they have lost the opportunity to gain even a basic, rudimentary education. Education, that is to say, basic reading, writing and arithmetic, are IS?? the most essential skills the children need whatever the future may bring upon them. To meet this very real need, we have engaged Syrian teachers – refugees themselves – to teach these basic skills to the children.

Lastly, we provide a good, hot, wholesome meal to nourish and build up the children. We were humbled when we commenced providing this meal as the children often set aside and harboured some of the food for their absent family members (who were labouring in the fields) – they thought of the needs of others above their own desire to consume the food laid out before them. Realising this, we strive to meet both of these needs: the children before us and their absent family members. This seemed like the best way to ensure the children were well nourished. At the end of the meal we either provided a sweet treat or fresh fruit. Contrary to what I anticipated, they highly valued and enjoyed the fruit.

16 February, being a Thursday the team went as usual to the tent for the ministry of the ‘Haven of Love and Compassion’.

However, on arrival the team were greeted by the District Education Director together with the district Mufti (the ‘mufti’ is an official learned in Islamic law who is in charge of Islamic affairs for a province or district.

On their arrival, the Education Director launched into an aggressive and harsh diatribe against the team. Whilst the team desired to explain what they were actually engaged in doing, the Education Director was on a rant and provided no opportunity for the team to respond.

The Education Director was venting his spleen, in a torrent of a sharp, one-sided discourse. His vitriolic harangue, continued without pausing, hence it was limited to a solely one-way communication. As he was not offering an opportunity for a dialogue, for give and take, this resulted in him not understanding anything of what the team were attempting to say.

Under this unrelenting, one-sided barrage, one of the team became rather agitated and he himself became angry. Consequently he started countering the Education Director rather harshly himself.

In spite of this tit-for-tat exchange, and in spite of the dangers of this degenerating into a pointless and harmful hissy-fit, by God’s undeserved, unearned and unmerited Grace, the Director must have understood his own error, as he softened his approach and actually apologised for how he had been speaking.

The brother who had become vexed also apologised at this juncture, confessing that to speak that way was against his understanding of the teaching of the New Testament.

Once the air was cleared and from that moment onwards, the discussion became a true discussion, with all parties both speaking and listening.

When he asked, “Why didn’t you get permission to do this work?”, Elmas, the elder’s wife, began to explain about all the governmental offices she had gone to and all the myriads of officials she had seen on the way. She mentioned the names of the Provincial Governor, the assistant Provincial Governor and other directors she had seen.

Once he realised his assumption of this being a lone-wolf, uncontrolled, independent and irresponsible action was false, and that indeed, this work is not being done in secret or a quiet corner without anyone knowing about it – on the contrary, that we had already been to those who are his superiors, he then began to really listen to what we had to say.

The entire situation, what we do, who we serve, everything, including the government offices we have been to was carefully detailed for him.

Finally he declared, “You are not allowed to teach children”, which, in Turkey is true. All education of any description from formal schools to informal dance classes must all be authorised and approved by the Ministry of Education. This is the Turkish way and the Turkish norm.

As these were Syrian refugees, and as they had been receiving no education before we commenced, Elmas replied, “If we don’t teach them, then you need to do it.

What can the Education Director for that region say in response to this?  Whilst it is true we can not teach children, they exist solely to teach children.

OK,” he said “we will do this.

Now, he very well may have been planning on doing this in any event – central government has pledged to educate the myriads of Syrian refugees in their midst… but now he openly acknowledged the responsibility.

The Education Director continued and said, “Next week we will begin both Turkish and Arabic lessons.

With the resources of the Ministry of Education, they will not be limited to the wee bit we were able to do twice a week. He indicated that they would provide teaching five days a week and for five hours a day.

It would seem that at the very least, the educational needs of these Syrian refugee children looks to being addressed.

The Education Director commented further, as we had laid out the full scope of our ministry, “On the topic of helping the refugees with food, clothing and other things, you need to go to the Kaymakam (District Governor) and ask for his permission, or else you will be committing a crime,” he said.

The team took Elmas to the office of the Kaymakam (a Kaymakam is a District-Governor who reports to the Provincial Governor).

It was agreed that Elmas should go in alone – the brother who had lost his temper feeling it best he not be there. As nothing is ever simple or straightforward in Turkey, she was there for next 2 ½ hours.

In the event, the Kaymakam was not in the office, but was coming ‘soon’, and so Elmas first saw the “Document Comptroller” (a position that I’ve found difficult to translate). While she was waiting for the Kaymakam, the Document Comptroller expressed his curiosity about our beliefs, and consequently asked many questions. His queries were all freely and fully answered.

In the fullness of time the Kaymakam arrived, and with the help of the Document Comptroller and after a pause to brief him, she was ushered into the presence of the Kaymakam. The Document Comptroller also attended.

Elmas found the Kaymakam to be a well-intentioned man. He seemed to want to help. The situation was fully explained to him. However, he declared that as our church does not have official status, that we could not, as a church, engage in aid distribution. There was a discussion of the possibility of her applying for permission as an individual which may be acceptable – but the church connection was a definite stumbling block.

The reasons and motivation for our helping the Syrian refugees was clearly and openly shared with both the Kaymakam and the Document Comptroller. Elmas explained that the greatest command the Lord Jesus Christ gave us was this:

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

It was explained that Syria is our neighbour, and because of this we are helping the refugees from Syria… because according to Jesus’ words, we are to love our neighbours.

After that, they called the District Social Welfare Officer to come into the meeting.

This official simply told Elmas that we could not assist the refugees.

After declaring that, however, he then began to ask questions. He wanted to learn about our beliefs.

He asked various questions and received complete answers.

He was very interested in one particular topic. He believes that there are different Gospels among Christians. He has been taught that each Christian division (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant) has a different Gospel or New Testament in which they believe – hence the differences between them.

Try as she might to explain that there is only one New Testament, he dogmatically returned to what he believed was correct. Everything that we presented he found very strange.

At this juncture Elmas expressed how very sad she felt.

Why?” he asked.

She replied, “If an educated person like you cannot understand this, then how am I going to be able to explain myself to the person on the street?”. She concluded by commenting “This is why they have a wrong understanding about us.

He seemed touched. She was able to talk to this man for a full hour.

In her view, he seemed a humble man.

At the end of the discussion she thanked him for his time, and said she would pray for him.

Will you really? How will you pray?” he asked.

I will pray that God will bless you and make you salt and light in this province.

This he was not expecting and immediately queried “What do you mean ‘salt and light’?

Salt gives taste to our food and I will pray that you would give taste to this province, and that you would shine like a light” she replied.

This pleased him.

She asked for his name and he replied Mustafa Erkayırıcı.

He then asked if his name was in the New Testament. He was told that even though it was not in the New Testament, his surname, with the meaning of one who protects or supports, was very good.

He then requested a New Testament. It was agreed that we will take him three New Testaments, an Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant New Testament so that he can compare them (remember, he believes that there are different New Testaments – the best way to convince him they are the same is to provide him with them and he can then discover this for himself)…

We are encouraged that the children will now have lessons every day and for five hours a day.

This is not the end of our adventure…

More to follow….