We all have our favoite foods — you know, the ones that you just can’t pass up even when you aren’t the least bit hungry. Food is a large part of our lives.
What happens when food becomes something different? What happens when food takes control over a person’s life?
God has a funny way of making me do something even when I don’t want to or am just not ready. Today’s post is an example of that. Just yesterday I responded to a comment of someone wanting to hear my testimony. I said that I wanted to wait until my book comes out where I share things I’ve never shared with anyone before. Today, within 2 hours, I met with 2 different people who out of the blue started talking about their struggles with food, or eating disorders as it’s labeled. Out of nowhere, these two people that I’ve known for a long time just felt the need to confide in me that they have or still do struggle with an eating disorder. God was talking, and I was listening. Although my stomach is in knots as I type this, I know it’s God’s timing for me to share, so please bear with me as this is very . . .very difficult.
I want to share with you a small part of my testimony that I share for the very first time ever in my book, Attainable Perfection. First I want to say that I usually refer to struggles like this as a food addiction rather than an eating disorder. I am not a doctor, so anything I have to say is from my own thoughts and perspective. I call it a food addiction because I truly believe that’s what it is, and that will become more apparent as I write my story. Just as drugs or alcohol can consume your every thought and move as it becomes an addiction, some people don’t realize that food can do the same thing. It can take control of you in a way no one outside of the addiction can ever understand.
I grew up a tiny little thing. When I say tiny, I mean tiny. I wasn’t what people would call thin. I was skinny — bones showing skinny. One year, I remember being sick with what they ended up diagnosing as a stomach ulcer. Several times at the doctor’s office I heard similar questions: Do you skip meals during the day? How many meals do you eat? Do you ever throw up after you eat? What does a typical meal look like? I couldn’t figure out why they were always asking me things like that. I had a very healthy apetite, and I was incredibly active but just couldn’t seem to gain weight or even get the muscle tone I was looking for as a cheerleader. To them, I looked unhealthy. To me I looked like myself, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Then, college hit, and I was no longer cheering and no longer going 90 miles an hour. Instead I ate boxed meals, raman noodles, Taco Bell, pizza and whatever that greasy stuff was they offered in the cafeteria all while going from class to class and coming back to my dorm to sleep. I had no energy to do anything else. Before I knew it I had gained literally almost half of the total weight I left high school with. Take that in — Take my total weight, divide it by 2 and then add it to the original total weight, and that’s where I stopped weighing myself. I hated looking at myself, and I hated having to choose what to wear every day because nothing fit. I found myself wearing sweats and a T-shirt every day of the week. Usually I wore whatever I slept in the night before. I didn’t care anymore.
Then, without realizing it, I went into a serious depression. I tried whatever I could in college. I tried not eating anything, and I tried throwing up after eating, but neither worked. You see, I thought about food 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I had become obsessed and literally controlled by food. I would wake up in the morning, lie in bed, and picture my pantry and refrigerator. I went through everything mentally and determined what I would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I mentally saw chips, my weakness, I had to have them immediately. I crave crunch, so anything I knew I had that was crunchy would be devoured before the day was gone. And I hated myself. I truly couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and see anything but an ugly, unhealthy person who was spiraling downward.
Once I graduated college, I began cooking my own meals paying attention to the types of food we were eating. And our new home had a swimming pool that I pretty much lived in all summer long. After 1 full year, I noticed that my pants weren’t fitting me right. Had they stretched because I wore them so much? I had no idea what happened, so I decided one day to pull out the dusty scale. I hadn’t weighed myself in years, so I was surprised we even still had one. Once I stepped on, I thought it must have been broken. The numbers were showing that I had lost more than half of the weight I had gained. How did that make sense? I saw the numbers on the scale, and I felt the pants falling off of me, but what I saw in the mirror was still a depressed and very overweight person. It took years for me to realize it was the addiction that was clouding my view. I couldn’t see myself the same as what others saw. I saw what the food addiction and depression were allowing me to see. It was almost as if I were looking through a funhouse mirror.
The misconception of food addictions or eating disorders is that it’s all about a person wanting to lose weight. That may be true for some people, but it’s not always the case. People fall into food addictions for so many different reasons: to lose weight, to gain weight (yes it’s true), depression, the love of the taste and feel (which is where I fell in), and control. Control and poor self image are what I think are the top reasons for struggling with food.
Regardless of how the food addiction begins, it really skews your view of yourself. It takes control of your mind, just like a drug, and you can’t see yourself how the world sees you. You see a completely different person staring back in the mirror, and it’s not a pretty person at all. I still find myself struggling with seeing myself the same way people see me. I find all the imperfections in my body. But then God’s sweet voice whispers to me reminding me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and there is no such thing as an imperfection in the body he created. I smile during those times because I know he is completely right, and then the cloudiness goes away. I know that those thoughts are simply lies from the enemy because he is fearful of the confidence God has given me. I have confidence in who I am in Christ. Sure the thoughts sneak in on occasion, and sure I still find food becoming the center of my thoughts every so often. . . then I come back to God’s word. I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Sweet friend, I pray that you never deal with these kinds of struggles, but if you do, please understand that you are not at all alone. The best thing you can do is to reach out to someone. Let them know what you’re struggling with, and ask for help before it consumes you. If you already feel consumed, reach out today to someone you trust. You can turn it around with God’s help. Nothing is impossible with God, and he wants you to see the amazingly beautiful perfection he has created, and yes I am talking about you!