By Brenda Rodgers
I stood over a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce sitting on the stove with a fork in one hand. The light above the stove revealing each piece, I picked the Italian sausage out of the sauce and ate it, bite after bite. Every few seconds I’d glance under the stove vent into the dining room to make sure my parents weren’t coming.
This is my earliest memory of food obsession. I was about ten years old.
For years I thought that being obsessed with food was just a part of who I am, like a personality trait or something. Getting overly excited at mealtimes, dreaming about eating out, hiding cookies in my room, eating every last bite of food on my plate, never being hungry – really – because I snacked so much, binge eating, being overly concerned with weight and the fact that I am only five feet tall.
In my early twenties I knew it was more than a personality trait. No longer was I just obsessed with food. I was then eating as much as I wanted and promptly getting rid of it afterwards. I admitted myself into an outpatient clinic for eating disorders under the diagnosis “bulimia.” I went to classes a few nights after work each week until I was “all better.”
But “all better” never really came. Although I no longer practice bulimia, I still struggle with food obsession.
Food obsession is tricky because it comes at you from both sides. If you eat whatever you want, whenever you want, you’re obsessing on food. But if you constantly analyze every morsel you put into your mouth, you’re obsessing on food, too.
Before this New Year began, I asked God again to deliver me from my food obsession. Through prayer, he revealed to me this verse in 1 Peter, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). In other words, practice discipline.
Whatever side I find myself on, binge eating or not eating much, there is one quality I am missing - discipline. Sometimes it takes discipline to not eat the cupcake, but sometimes it takes the same discipline to eat the cupcake and not worry about it.
When you go into therapy for eating disorders they do not tell you to be more disciplined. The word “discipline” would have most likely spun me into a cycle of never-ending defeat. I thought that trying to be disciplined was a part of my problem. I could manage to eat perfectly, avoiding anything unhealthy, and just the right quantities for a few weeks. However, the first time my world was disrupted I went straight for the food, and I went to it with gusto.
However, the discipline we refer to in our daily lives is not the discipline referred to in 1 Peter. In our daily lives, discipline is a practice we desire for our own purposes. We want to lose weight, use our time more wisely, or save money.
However, the discipline in 1 Peter, being “self-controlled and sober-minded”, is for the purposes of God – “for the sake of your prayers.” In other words, being disciplined is not for our physical health. It is for our spiritual health.
For the first time I saw how my food obsession was directly linked to my spiritual health.
Could it be that my food obsession is preventing me from truly experiencing God the way He intends for me to? Could it be that I don’t see God answering my prayers because I am not sober-minded? Could it be that my food obsession is really a food addiction?
When I obsess on food, I create a barrier between God and myself. We are all aware that our bodies are the homes of the Holy Spirit within us. But in order to get to the depths of the Holy Spirit, our outside worlds have to get past the barrier of our bodies that border those depths.
Imagine yourself literally carrying your burdens past your flesh and walking them deep into the center cavity of your chest. Discipline teaches us to take our emotions, fears, and frustrations past the borders of our physical bodies, where we can leave them in a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips, to the depths of our souls where we can leave them at the foot of the Cross.
Only here, in this place of being “sober-minded” in the presence of the Holy Spirit, can we hear God clearly through His Word, know His will, and obey His teaching. We aren’t thinking about the food, but we’re thinking about God. Only here can we experience God fully.
When I meditate on the connection between my physical body and my spiritual health, my food obsession suddenly loses its luster. I see it as bondage, keeping me from the relationship with God I so desire.
Obsessing on food, by either overeating or being hypersensitive to what I’m eating, puts food in the place of God in my life. Instead, each burden I experience should be a catalyst for me carry it to Jesus and lay it at the foot of the Cross.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.