Deprivation or Denial?

How many times have you heard an overweight person say “I don’t want to go on that diet because then I will feel deprived”? Or “I don’t want to give up sugar because I’ll feel deprived and then binge and gain all my weight back.” We overeaters hate the feeling of being deprived of anything. We don’t want to suffer or give up anything to lose weight. We want to “have our cake and eat it too.” We want the benefits of being thin and gorgeous. But we really do NOT want to pay the price. (I know, I’ve been struggling for years.)

Do you struggle with …
not wanting to be deprived?
With wanting to have your cake
And eat it too?


Where do you suppose that we got the idea that we don’t have to deprive ourselves of the things that we enjoy for the good of the cause? Don’t alcoholics need to DEPRIVE themselves of alcohol to successfully recover? Don’t compulsive gamblers need to DEPRIVE themselves of going to the casino? Don’t sex addicts need to starve their eyes and DEPRIVE themselves of a second look and the accompanying fantasy?

I must admit that the word deprivation has a negative connotation. It conjures up images of infants in an orphanage not receiving the touch that is so vital to their existence. Or POW’s not being given adequate food or drink. Deprivation sounds like something horrible that I must try to survive so that I can once again have whatever it is that I am abstaining from.

Let’s reframe this concept a bit (Reframing is like taking a picture, changing the matte and the frame so that it looks like an entirely different picture). What if we instead talk about the concept of DENIAL. What image does this word elicit? The first thing that I think of are the words of Jesus, as He admonishes us to DENY ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

Then Jesus said:
If any of you wants to be my follower,
You must put aside your selfish ambition,
Shoulder you cross, and follow me.
If you try to keep your life for yourself,
You will lose it.
But if you give up your life for me,
you will find true life
”. (Matthew 16:24-25)


Self-denial is a Biblical concept. Jesus denied Himself many earthly pleasures in order to accomplish the purposes that God had for Him. How can we as Christ-followers do anything other that what Jesus did? It seems that if we are to attain the goal of weightlessness (where our identity is no longer defined by our weight), we must accept self-denial as our way of life. This hurts us, we suffer, and we experience emptiness and malaise when we begin to restrict our consumption of certain foods and huge sized portions.

We must accept this reality that if we really are to be Losers for Life, we need to embrace the feelings of deprivation and denial as a way of life and seek to manage those feelings the way that Jesus did. He will help us. He knows the feelings of our infirmities. His Holy Spirit will comfort us.

Scott Peck, in his book, The Road Less Traveled states that “Life is difficult.” As soon as we accept the fact that life is difficult, it ceases to be difficult. The same can be said for the journey of permanent weight-loss, that as soon as we accept the fact that self-denial must become a way of life, it becomes less difficult. May God grant us the grace and power to follow in His steps.


This article is by Jennifer Cecil, M.Ed., LPC