My Journey With Food
Who doesn't like good food? We all do, don't we? Food is meant to be nutrition for our bodies and to give us energy to do things that we need/want to do. It also helps our bodies to generate t he heat needed to keep us alive. But sadly, there's eating disorders as well on both sides of the fence. Here's some stats for you...
You can find this information and more along with it's sources here:
Here's definitions and more information:
Here's some more research on eating disorders:
In case you are wondering what often causes eating disorders, you can find some information here:
I don't know if my struggle with food could have been called a disorder but I know that there was something behind it. It didn't just come out of nowhere. In fact, I wonder if not all of it(eating disorders around the world) is caused by some hurt, abuse, loss or some other negative thing. I remember that first memory of something that should never have been said. Something that I struggle with to this day...my father's words...and this is the picture that triggered his words..."You look fat in this picture. "
In this picture I was in 5th or 6th grade. At this point most of my childhood is void of memories except a few traumatic ones. Due to the stuff going on at home I was shut down emotionally, mentally, and verbally. I was homeschooled 1st to 4th grade and my sisters and I were sent to a private school built by the church members when I was ready for 5th grade. It made matters worse because at this point we had veal calves and I had to help feed them before I went to school. Everyone else with farms who went to school had dairies. Those who live on farms know that every animal has a different smell. I guess the smell clung to our clothes and therefore we "stank" to the others. This was the cause for mockery and name calling from a few of the other older students. It caused me to shut down even more. Sometimes I would try to stand up for myself but it didn't help anything.
Most days I would take most of my subjects home because I didn't get them done which then resorted to all kinds of punishments from both my parents and teacher. My young heart just ached for some kind soul to take time to gain my trust and seek to understand the underlying issue. Part of the punishments had to do with food: often I came home with no time to play but rather had to sit at the table with my homework often not allowed to eat anything for supper or have no dessert as punishment because I didn't get done in time.
There was a saying often repeated while growing up as a child and I knew there was something wrong with it. I knew it wasn't true or I wouldn't be suffering like I was. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." So not true! Anyone who is honest will know that it's the opposite. It is the mindset of a denier. Someone who doesn't face reality whatever the situation may be. Please don't be such a person!
I don't remember much more about food till I was around 18 and I started teaching school to get away from home. I remember barely eating anything for breakfast, then going to school where I could hardly finish my sandwich for lunch, later I'd come home to all the drama at home and we'd sit down for the evening meal. All the bickering and "each for himself" mentality just took away any appetite I had after eating a spoonful or two and I would retire to my room amid mom's trying to convince me to eat more when I just couldn't.
Around the same time I was also going with the youth and I know that one of my friends was concerned when I told her I weigh too much. She thought I wasn't eating enough and I'm too skinny. I also knew that my mom weighed around 100 lbs when she got married and so I wanted that weight but I couldn't get there. I would try to fit on her dresses from when she was going with the youth and dating my dad but I didn't like them at all. I was just too fat to look nice in them. They were also made with knit fabric which I did not like because it was bad for static in the winter as well as made with pleats in the waist and cuffs on the sleeves instead of elastic in the waist and sleeves like I was used to.
When I was 18 I ended up at Green Pastures and it was only then that I began to realize that it was actually not normal. The kindness shown to me just relieved enough of the stress that I wanted to eat more food but because I hadn't been eating much for so long I was given Ensure to help me get started eating more. By the time I had left there and moved in with my aunt and uncle's family it had swung to the other extreme where I would continue eating when I was already overfull.
Later on I was at another girl's livein counseling place and while there I began having trouble with my knees due to the excess weight I was putting on from eating too much. By the time I left there I was over 145 lbs. When I saw that it kinda rattled me so I tried to cut back on my eating and lost a lot of weight. As I also got off the meds I was on and began taking natural supplements and also had some counseling which helped me as well in healing. Eventually I left home because I realized that the atmosphere was poisonous and would hinder my healing journey.
As I continued to heal I realized that when I was bored and lonely or even just struggling with painful things, I'd eat. Especially sweets and snacks. Eventually I was living alone and I attempted occasionally to try to limit food that wasn't healthy. Around that time as well I made the decision to leave the Mennonite church and the church I ended up at for 2.5 years was big on fasting. It was portrayed as good and Biblical and the pastor tried to have 3 people in the congregation fasting for each day of the week. Some people did more than one day a week. Around that time I also began to spend my lunch break praying and skipping lunch which affected me physically, emotionally, and mentally. It was also somewhat confusing because it didn't seem to me like the fasting(at church) was being done according to what the Bible says on how it should be done. (Matt. 6:16-18)
My most significant relationship was very rocky and in some way fasting was used as self punishment because I blamed myself for the relationship not going well and it was really confusing. I had never learned how to have good relationships and I was trying so hard to learn how to have healthy relationships but because of trauma and abuse it made it extra hard and confusing for me. As devastated as I was in seeing them move away, looking back now I can see that it was the best thing that could've happened.
I started a new job soon after and planned to continue my "fasting" but then I didn't get permission to leave to grounds for my break(I wanted to go down the road to the little country church so that I'd have privacy to pray). Now I see it as good because around that time I began to see red flags from the church I was going to and I was burnt out spiritually.
Around that time I swung to the other extreme of eating too much or having no appetite. I was hurting so bad from all the spiritual abuse as well as emotional abuse, etc. Things I had wanted to do and missions I wanted to take part in didn't pan out and I was left wondering if my life will ever amount to anything.
I also began to realize how overeating was stressing my body physically despite relieving the emotional pain for the time being. There were times I'd eat too much and then beg God to forgive me because I wasn't taking good care of His temple. I'd feel helpless as I tried and failed to have self control. I'd beg God to help me stop eating so much. I failed more times than I can count.
One day one of my friends shared something about taking dominion of our life like we are called to even if it's a very small part of our life.
In Genesis 1:28-31 it says:
And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
We are to have dominion over our lives. Some of us may be or have been in bad relationships and situations where it seems impossible to change anything. But we can take small steps to begin. Sometimes it may mean making boundaries with others and holding to them. It could mean saying no to something. It could mean self discipline in a certain area of our life.
The sad part is that often the things in our life we turn to are just a bandaid for deeper wounds. When people are into drugs, drinking or sexual immorality it is usually seen as a negative thing which it is but the sad part is that there is often a deeper issue that's being covered up and they do much damage both in our lives and those around us.
Now when it is something like food, sweets, shopping, projects, work, different kinds of entertainment, etc which in and of themselves are usually not bad but good. The bad part is that when we turn to them in excess they are harmful both to ourselves; our bodies and relationships, and our loved ones.
Those of us who go through trauma and abuse often find negative ways of relieving the emotional pain and I've struggled with some of these myself.
-Overeating is hard on one's budget and puts extra stress on one's body. There is evidence that it helps quell emotional pain. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201205/whats-behind-emotional-overeating
-Shopping is even worse for the budget. I've noticed for myself that if I'm struggling with fear or loneliness or anything else that is negative I find myself going shopping. But I've found that if I can identify the issue and find a way to deal with it positively I find the desire to go shopping dwindling away.
There are more things that become addictions and band aids but since this is supposed to be about food I will try to stick to that. Food and shopping have been the bigger ones for me.
What I've found that helps is recognizing the problem and doing something to take care of the root of it. Putting a bandaid on a problem will not take care of it. Yes, it will make you feel better for a bit but then you soon need more to cover up the problem or fill the void inside. I have seen this happen in my life.
When I'm lonely I need to choose to reach out by texting someone, calling someone, going hiking with someone or even just hanging out with a friend.
When I'm sad I need to acknowledge the reason, often praying about it, and if needed to let myself cry. Often that's what is needed. It helps even more if I can let myself be vulnerable and allow someone to listen to why I'm sad or what I'm feeling. There is just something healing and helpful in making myself vulnerable to another if I can trust them to really care and not just hurt me in my vulnerability.
I was reminded once again this morning that not eating can also be used as self-punishment because I caught myself trying to punish myself for feeling lonely and longing for connection with someone who cares and doesn't judge me. Someone who accepts me for who I am.
For this reason, fasting is something I struggle with because I feel like I always have a wrong motive for doing it. Partly because I have a way to control something when so many other things are out of control. Even though I know it is a spiritual discipline I find myself turning it into a form of self punishment which isn't right so currently for me it is a very confusing thing for me and I avoid it if at all possible.
I don't feel like I have too much more to share. Too just put it in nice simple terms what has helped me, would be:
-realize that there is a problem
-seek for the underlying need or factor that causes you to resort to the self-medicating habit or avenue
-acknowledge how it started and how you got to where you are now
-ask God and trusted friends to help you find alternatives to your self-medicating ways
-keep your expectations low; if you don't, you will find yourself punishing yourself or taking it out on others or just simply giving up trying. The best thing to do is to give yourself as much grace as you can, accept that you won't get over it very fast and do your best to get up everytime you fail
-have an accountability partner or friend
I'm sure there's more that could be added. I don't have an accountability partner though I wish I did. Last night I went to a Celebrate Recovery meeting considered to be the Christian version of Alcoholics Anonymous. I appreciated the openness and vulnerability but the spiritual aspect was a red flag for me. I have been checking out various groups locally to see if there's any I'd feel comfortable joining by myself but I haven't found anything. Some of them I'm just too scared to go by myself. (For this reason I hate my past because of all the fear I have to keep fighting daily just to live a half decent life. ) The thing that keeps driving me is the loneliness and isolation because I know that if I had some friends to hang out with where I could be comfortable enough to just be myself it would definitely improve the quality of my life. But on the other side, when do have friends to hang out with I am constantly fearful that I will lose them too and it'll be my fault, a reaction to having lost so many "friends" over the last several years and perhaps they were never my true friends to begin with. So then I eat or I don't eat or I turn to social media or anything else I can drown my fears, pain and loneliness in. I understand why I turn to those things. I'm trying to figure out alternatives but it is a slow road to climb. Some days I do well but most days I fail(it doesn't help working at a grocery store). Each time I can say no to myself I feel hope. I need to be patient with myself when I fail. And so the journey continues...
I don't know what you expected to find in this article but I hope that with my being honest and vulnerable with my struggles will help you do the same. It is a process, something that takes time and a lot of self reflection. It takes time to find the roots. Sometimes it may take professional help and there is no shame in that. It's all about healing and letting our pain be used to help those around us. It's not an easy journey. I've been going to counseling off and on for the last 15 years. Each time it is another step to turning more wounds into scars. They serve to remind me how far I've come. I'm not the person I was when I was a teen. God has been working in my life since I gave my life to Him at 16. Looking back now I can see the change I couldn't then but I have no regrets. Despite the things I deal with on a daily basis I'm living a life I never thought I could or ever would.
So what I would like to say is that no matter what you find yourself dealing with on a daily basis, there is hope. Things are not impossible, especially if you are a child of the King. We have a Father who can do the impossible or what looked impossible to my human eyes and I've seen Him work in my life. My life now compared to when I was a teen is what I consider that abundant life Jesus promised to give. The problem though is that I want an EVEN MORE abundant life. I keep seeking and finding and growing.
It is a process. Just like the storms that come through in the summer. Think of a plant, perhaps a vegetable or flower seed. It sprouts. It grows. It faces storms. Some that almost kill it. Eventually it comes to the place where it gives fruit or beautiful flowers depending on its type. So are we in this life. Some storms crush us to the point where we wonder if we will ever be able to get back up. Healing is a choice and as we choose to take the steps needed to heal we will grow and heal. There is hope...for each one of us. Our lives aren't over yet. Let us continue to choose healing and help to go forward, to live that abundant life Jesus has promised. There is hope for both of us no matter what the situation may be...there is hope...not a dead end street...hope...can you catch a glimpse of it?