This is an email I received from a beautiful believer and I think this topic is REALLY important. I’m extremely glad she brought it up! Here is her email, then I will make some comments.
Food and body image.
Yep, that’s a big one for me.
For the past three years, after my first “diet” the summer before my junior year in high school, I have struggled with either under eating or over eating. For a long time I thought I was being a good steward of my body by being “healthy” but I wasn’t… I was super obsessive about exercise and eating only “clean” foods and there was A LOT of pride mixed in there. It sure made me feel good to be known as the “health nut” and the one who had ran the half marathon. But it also proved for a lot of awkward situations like when we were on our way back from a youth retreat about two years ago and all the youth stopped at Wendy’s to get food. I of course didn’t get anything… I was the health nut, how could I? (even though I wanted something so bad I couldnt let anyone see me eat that stuff. PRIDE. I had an image to preserve). I remember our youth pastor’s wife saying something to me privately (obviously concerned but very gently) “I don’t see you eat much…” I didn’t really respond I just remember thinking in my head, “I hope she doesn’t think I have an eating disorder. Because I don’t! I’m just healthy!”
Whether or not I had an “eating disorder” I don’t know… but I was in BONDAGE for sure. I know that some people choose to cut out fast food and sugar completely for health reasons and that’s fine but for me it was different… I was SCARED of those things. And carbs… and white bread and rice… and pretty much anything edible. It’s like I had convinced myself that food was working against me and not for me and I simply had to deal with it…
Well anyway, after a while (and a small health scare) I just couldnt keep it up anymore and went off the deep end. I started eating food (mostly junk)… too much and too often. I threw all my old ways out of the window and started really struggling with bingeing. It’s like it was just impossible for me to eat like a normal person! SO MUCH BONDAGE!!
Eventually I began to realize that both my undereating and my overeating were both bad. I had to accept it for what it was… bondage. Which was so HARD for me. I wanted to just call it “bad eating habits” because its less harsh. But the fact that I was UNABLE to change made me realize that it was in fact a much deeper issue…
In the past year or so God has really worked in me and freed me from a lot of food/body image bondage that I had. He has really been teaching me more of His ways in this area. I am learning self control. I no longer compare myself or my body to other people (as much as before at least) and have SO much freedom. For the first time ever I finally believe that I can overcome and walk in freedom COMPLETELY in this area! I am also sooooo happy that I can learn these truths now in my younger years! I have been learning from godly women in my life who are healthy and fit yet enjoy a piece of desert every now and then and even fast food once in a while *gasp* hehe. I am really learning that when DISCIPLINE is in it’s proper place food can be both nourishing and FUN!
I am learning that I can enjoy food and still be healthy. I can exercise and not have to be a slave to it. I can have “junk” food every now and then and not feel guilty. Woot woot!!!
But I would still like to hear from you
-What steps do you take to stewarding your body?
-Have you ever experienced any weight/eating issues?
…and anything else you’d like to say!
I’m SO glad you wrote to me!!! And I am thrilled that God has given you victory over this bondage and sin – the slavery to food and body image. We as women are very prone to these forms of bondage and idolatry. So it is important to build a hedge around our hearts with God’s truth about our worth, our value, our beauty and to know who we are in Christ.
God made food to give us sustenance – and to be something enjoyable that we could share with our families and friends and have fellowship over. But we are able to take anything God made for good and warp it into an idol.
It helps, from my perspective, if we keep our primary purpose on this earth in mind.
God gave us life and made us so that we might bring great glory to Him.
That is where my identity is, my joy, my strength, my calling, my hope and my happiness. If I try to put anything in the place of God in my life and worship/serve/bow down to it – I will be in bondage and I will be miserable. Sin brings pain. Obedience to Christ brings joy.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:
I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome myself. It makes my stomach bloat A LOT and used to make me have horrible diarrhea and cramping for hours every night through high school, college and when I was first married. It was debilitating! And frustrating. I ended up looking about 4 months pregnant by the end of the day most days. It was hard to find clothes that fit. I felt so unattractive. I felt sick most of the time.
Now I know that if I run a bit each day – it stays under control! THANK YOU, LORD! Wish I had known that a long time ago. But I am extremely thankful to know it now!
I learned that if I over-ate, I would feel REALLY HORRIBLE. So that was a big motivation not to overeat for me.
And there is no way I was going to starve myself. I feel awful when my blood sugar is low – grumpy, confused, shaky. So I was not into that! And I have always had a paranoia about throwing up – so there was definitely no way I was going to binge and purge.
So – I didn’t struggle with an eating disorder. There were times I hated certain characteristics about my body. I have a VERY small chest – in fact, I still have to wear bras from the little girls’ department because I am not even a cup size. That can be a bit demoralizing in our culture. It was a huge concern for me when I was in school – middle school especially. You know – when guys make fun of you for your shape and size that you really can’t control – those comments can hang with a girl for a long time. But I grieved over it and got over it. Now I see it as a blessing because the rest of me is pretty small, too. And my husband was very accepting of my shape and size and never saw me as “less than.” He never said I should have surgery or that he was disappointed or anything. So I am very blessed! Now, I love my body and appreciate my health and am so thankful for what I have.
Yes – you are describing bondage and slavery – idolatry really – with food. It’s difficult when you have bondage to something that you have to deal with multiple times a day. I am SO glad that God has healed you!!!!
That is awesome!
For me – I eat enough till I feel full – I eat a balanced diet with all the food groups. When I was pregnant two times, I learned to eat much more healthy foods because someone else was depending on every bite I took! I make sure I eat fruit about 3 times per day and veggies 2-3 times per day. Breakfast is usually half of a bagel and a cup of 1% chocolate milk.
I know what I need to eat to function well. I don’t allow food to rule my thoughts. Christ is the most important thing to me. I eat to take good care of my body – and I allow myself treats sometimes. But my life does not revolve around food or my size or weight. I don’t even own a scale! My life revolves around Christ and my desire to bring glory to Him, to know Him more and to honor Him by obeying Him in every area of my life.
I gained about 45 lbs with each pregnancy. So I definitely felt the effects of a lot of extra weight. Not my favorite thing. But within a year of each baby, I was able to get it all off and was so thankful. But my husband was accepting and said he’d love me no matter if I lost the weight or not. He is such an anchor of strength for me! His acceptance is so freeing to me.
I like to run and try to run for a few minutes each day – my tummy will punish me if I don’t! But it is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and breathe some fresh air – and I like to listen to praise songs and sing in my heart to God while I run and marvel at His creation.
Now – I have confidence in my body, I do run a bit 5-6 days per week. But I have confidence because of who I am in Christ and how I am loved and nothing can take that away from me. And I have confidence in the beautiful body God gave to me – and I know that even the things I don’t like or the aches/pains/diseases I endure – He will use for His glory and my good. So I have every reason for joy, peace, courage, confidence and hope.
Anyone who’d like to comment is welcome to!