The Weight of It: My Struggle Through Food Addiction
Writing, for me, is cathartic. So, I tend to write on topics where I struggle, instead of my strengths. While old tapes can still play in my head, for the most part, I have a very good view of myself. I know my worth in God and my value in my friends and family’s lives. Yet, that horribly teased little girl full of brokenness and no self-worth still dwell within me. I hold her fragile frame in the palm of my hand, blowing life into thinned lungs, whispering:
“Oh my love, you are the loveliest! Just wait, wait my dear, we are going to do beautiful things. Your life will be filled with people you love. You will be loved and feel loved. Don’t give up my child – hold on!” …
I sat with the plate of cookies, placing one whole confection in my mouth at a time. The fevered relish of another binge was intoxicating. Inevitably, in the moments after I would feel loathsome and desperately attempt to separate soul from skin; shamefaced.
This was a new development – binge eating. My scandalous relationship with food had taken on new layers.
In my formative years I developed a wondrous love for sugar – sweet, sticky, goodness. Growing up in the Deep South, a true Georgia Peach, I was raised on the home cooking of my Grandmother and my Great Grandmother. There is an art to cooking vegetables until they are devoid of all nutrients. Biscuits with homemade jams, preserves, and jellies (my mouth is watering right now thinking about my Grandmother’s biscuits), fried chicken, and desserts after every meal.
In the south food is an, “I love you!”
Even to this day, it is still one of my favorite love languages. If I have ever invited you in my home, cooked or baked for you, then you have experienced a piece of my love for you.
Raised Southern Baptist, food is also a form of worship. Have you ever been to a Southern Baptist event where food is involved? Good Lord bless us now, we can cook and eat!!!
At my heaviest, 204lbs, my self-worth was bound by the extra coating I carried. I was fatigued, cranky, emotional, and lived with health problems that began to grow exponentially. I also felt safe. A chronic introvert with low self-esteem, I felt well insulated by my weight. There was an invisible quality that took shape. I didn’t feel desirable, so there was never a concern of being desired. (Let me be clear, it is never okay to judge someone per their size. No matter what side of the scale they slide on. We are all beautiful. I was just as lovely at 204lbs as I am now at 164lbs. There is such an unhealthy stigma attached to being overweight. Words do hurt. They do damage.)
Around 2009, I reached a breaking point. As I said before, my weight was doing havoc on my body. I was having gallbladder issues, irregular cycles, and terrible stomach problems. My blood pressure and pulse were elevated, and I was heading down a track of pre-hypertension to hypertension. There were more bad days than good days. I had no health insurance. I was on the precipice of despair.
From 2009 to 2011, I began to learn about veganism. I honestly loved the vegan diet. It taught me about eating new things, adding delicious fruits and vegetables to my diet, eating raw, and all in all total body health. I realized how much I loved healthy whole food. And, my number one focus was to get preservatives and processed food out of my diet.
I began with soda. Over five years now and I don’t miss it. I love water, coffee, tea, and kombucha.
As far as I have come, I still crave the yucky nasty stuff – the processed empty calorie foods. As I stated in the beginning, binge eating is a relatively new development for me. It is a reminder that I am human and this clearly is my thorn. I don’t have it all together. My sister pointed out that my binges are a spiritual attack. Looking at this degrading act through the lens of spiritual warfare brings a lot of clarity. God has given me all the tools I need to combat the devil and his evil schemes.
In the end, I am okay with being a complete mess. One of the daily promises I make to myself is not to beat myself black and blue over the mistakes I make. I am human. I will say inappropriate things, act in unkind ways, and I will inevitably eat copious amounts of unhealthy things before this life is over.
Yet, I love this journey. I am grateful that my boss, Jason, and I share a healthy lifestyle. We encourage each other not to overdo it and to put good things in our bodies.
My sister, Meredith, has been a champion in talking me from the ledge when I feel sanity slipping through my fingers.
With 40 pounds lost, I have found a part of myself I never knew I had. This journey is my own. The truth of the matter is that I was living in sin at 204lbs. Not because I was that weight, but because I was living in disobedience with where I was taking my emotions. God wasn’t the most important thing to me. I placed my love of food before my love for Him. God did not intend me to be over 200lbs. It was not the journey He had for me.
I recently did a 21 Day No Sugar Challenge. My number one weakness is sugar. Sugar in any form fills up my soul and mouth with wonderful sensations. At the end of the challenge, I learned more about what it was like to feel full and, a little perk, I lost 5 pounds.
In the weeks after the challenge I slowly but surely put the weight back on. It was one of the painful realizations that I don’t have it all together.
I remember my dear friend James Aaron saying, “Melissa, your health is not a number on the scale, give yourself a break, don’t focus so much on the number.”
We truly cannot show God’s grace unless we accept His grace for ourselves. Repentance and forgiveness go hand in hand.
I was speaking with my friend and Hope Lodge volunteer, Betsy. We were talking, as we usually do, about healthy eating and living. She said, “Melissa, we have to do this for the Lord. If we don’t set out to have our bodies be living testimonies for what He has done in us, then losing weight really doesn’t matter.”
This is a spiritual journey. There are deep seeded emotions engrained beyond my comprehension that bled out into my unhealthy eating. As I heal my body through the food God provides, I am allowing Him to examine my heart and spirit for broken shards left from a breaking in my formative years.
The practical lessons I’ve learned:
1. I’m a mess. I will continue to make a mess. Forgiveness is available. Giving myself a break is healthy.
2. I cannot do this all at once. It took years for me to learn the eating behaviors I did. It will take time to learn new ones and break old life cycles.
3. I cannot just eliminate and unhealthy food. I must substitute an unhealthy food choice with an enjoyable yummy healthy food.
4. I will enjoy food! I am a foodie. I will not go through life without savoring yummy good things. A treat is necessary to keep life rich.
5. I cannot enjoy everything in moderation. There are just some things I cannot have. I do not need or want to put processed foods in my body. I do not have the self-control to have sweets or simple carbs in my house. It is akin to an alcoholic keeping a bottle of wine in their home, thinking they could just take a sip.
6. There are always new things to learn about health. Food is fun. I will try new things. The worst thing is I hate it. The best is I find a new favorite food.
7. This journey is my own. I cannot tell anyone else how to walk this sod. Yet, if my story with food addiction helps someone find a grain of hope then my story has done its purpose.
8. I’m not done yet. I deserve to reach my goal of 140lbs. I deserve to make that goal a reality. I can do it. There is nothing that is stopping me from achieving that goal.
9. I have to eat less and move more. I hate exercise, but always feel amazing afterwards. I have a lot of anxiety. I am a natural worrier and anxious person. Exercise, not only helps me lose weight, but it keeps me sane, and helps relieve stress.
10. Weight does not denote happiness or self-worth. My worth is ultimately found in Christ. If I seek it anywhere else I will be emptied instead of filled.
I want to feel healthy enough to live the life He has called me to live.