This question post has taken me awhile to write. Every time I sit down to answer this sweet woman’s question, I get a few words in and just have to walk away because I so desperately want to speak humble wisdom, and I want to allow the Lord to guide my words instead of them being my own.
I received a question about how I freed myself of emotional eating, body image issues, and balancing the truths I know with actual practice. The woman that wrote me shared her heart in such a brave and honest way, it was so humbling. She’s so beautiful inside and out, I can just tell. Her vulnerability and desire to live for more is honestly, so breath-taking. We should all be so open and honest with each other, it takes away the power of darkness and allows light to come on in and really do its work.
I’m going to take little excerpts from her email and write my response. Please know I am a flawed human being so lets let this place be a place of encouragement and positivity and if you have anything positive to add just leave it in the comments section.
“How did you overcome the emotional eating? I know that anything that I regard as more important or worthy of my affections than Christ is an idol. At this point, I am aware that food is an idol in my life. It’s just really hard to put it back in it’s place as I’m sure you know.”
Man, deep breaths. So I wouldn’t necessarily say I have “overcome” it because it is a daily battle that luckily, by the pure grace of God, I feel I have been equipped to fight. The greatest part about this is, the quickest way to lose a battle is to never admit you’re in one. So my friend, you are already doing amazingly well because you’re admitting you’re in a battle. So congrats, you’re not living in denial which unfortunately totally SUCKS! Just kidding. But for real, you’re aware of this struggle which makes life hard but SO worthwhile. Now you can armor up. The best way to take away the power of an idol is to knock it down. I knock mine down with gratitude, prayer, and humor. I replace any thoughts of “I’m a fat ass, lazy, I should be a smaller size or look like fill in the blank” with thoughts of gratitude for my body. “I am so grateful I have legs that I can use to walk. I am so grateful my body can carry this child. I am grateful my body can process food and use it to my nourishment.” Even the little things, just be grateful. The more you claim it, the more you’ll believe it and the less powerful that idol will be. It’s hard to hear the negative thoughts when you’re too busy singing the positive ones.
I pray. Man do I pray. When I feel vulnerable or insecure, I pray. I pray for strength, I pray for silence, and I pray for peace. I pray that I stop looking at myself through my jacked-up eyes and remember what God thinks about me.
I use humor. Even in my prayer and my gratitude, I use it. It helps me take away the power of darkness. If I’m tempted to compare myself to other women whether they be on a magazine in the grocery store aisle or walking next to me on the street, I replace my tendency to start self-bashing with humor. “I bet that chick doesn’t appreciate Chewy Sprees the way I do.” or “Your man likes a little shake with his fries Martha so keep shaking.” I have to use humor because it doesn’t make the voice telling me that I’m lacking something sound nearly as much fun to be with as the voice telling me that I’m a badass for warping my body in order to carry children or making beat-boxing noises while my butt bounces up and down when I run. Figure out what you need to do in order to strip that idol of its power, because you already have it in you. You just have to figure out which weapon you want to use. If I read the Hunger Games (which I won’t), then I’d make some sort of joke here about Catniss.
“Last year at this time, I took control of my eating in a very unhealthy way. I did lose weight pretty quickly and that felt good, but one can’t live off of 800-1,000 calories a day. Then I got back to school in the fall, and slowly averted back to my old ways and gained back some more weight. I really want to break this crazy food burden I carry around off of me. I have failed so many times. It’s not that I sit and eat gallons of ice-cream or boxes of oreos haha; I just eat until I have that uncomfortably full feeling. I don’t stop when I’m full. I lose my awareness of what I am doing when I eat. I almost go numb. Then I finish and beat myself up, tearing apart my least favorite things about my body and promising to never do it again. The problem is I do this time after time again. I eat and never truly feel satisfied.”
First you’re right, you should definitely be eating more than 800-1000 calories a day. And also, errrrrr I promise I’ve never eaten a whole box of Oreos by myself… promise. But for real, if I’m honest, counting calories makes me feel a little too controlling and trapped so I just use discernment when I’m eating. If I eat a huge meal, I try to eat a lighter one later in the day but as long as I’m active and eating healthily, I don’t pay that much attention to calories. There was a long stint in my life when I was counting every calorie, every fat gram, and just obsessing over what I was eating. Mentally and spiritually it just wasn’t a healthy place for me to be. My issue was far deeper than just what the scale told me. My battle wasn’t about my size or the power of food, it was how I saw myself. I was trying to control little things like eating when really I had a bigger war going on. I needed to figure out my identity and my worth and it sure as hell wasn’t my physical appearance. I needed to start enjoying the gifts, the seasons, the talents, the community that God had blessed me with. He is Love, and I was spending my time on everything BUT love. I started loving Him, loving myself, loving others. It is ongoing and it had to start with little steps. For instance, I had a huge case of Kate Moss-itus and I needed to get rid of that ASAP. So I stopped counting calories and I stopped seeing food as a power in my life…. for good OR evil. I love to indulge the yummy goodness of this world because I think life is to be enjoyed, not controlled.
I hope you find hope in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come.” and release yourself from comparing your actions now to “my old ways”. Those ways are gone. So let them go.
Now, my heart ACHES when I hear you say you beat yourself up and tear yourself down. Because my friend, I believe you were made with the same hands that made the Grand Canyon. You are beautiful and you are incredible. If you overindulge, ok. This does not define you. You are more important than a number on a scale. You are more important than jean size. It’s time you start to give yourself some credit in the grand scheme of things. Because that’s what you’re designed for, you are designed to play a part of the grand scheme.
Love to you, I’m so grateful you felt comfortable to talk to me about this. You’re incredible and such an inspiration of how beauty lies in the rawness of life.