Tree years ago. I was innocent, ernest, and eager. Life had fullness and complexity. It was through simplicity and truth that I began to learn to know God.
And somehow, in the midst of my pure desire to, “be good,” I fell into a perfect storm.
An eating disorder. One that, I look on now, and think that if I had not gotten the care I had, it could have taken my life.
I mean I wouldn’t have survived it if I were treated like a “normal” seventeen year old.
You see, seventeen year olds shouldn’t have to be told to eat their food. They aren’t incapable of getting themselves something to eat. And they don’t have to be watched every hour of the day and have their choices laid out for them.
But I did.
Because of a mysteriously fatal disease.
And I fell into it all…
Innocently, right after my conversion.
I fell into it through a desire to be good.
And yet, how is our world so messed up, that in the attempt to be good, one can begin to starve themselves? How is our world gone so far to tell the younger generation that they will be healthier, happier, accepted, and possibly more Christian, if they control their weight and eating problems?
Oh why have we gone so far?
And yet God looks down from heaven. I think sometimes He cries. I used to think God didn’t cry.
I think He cries when He sees America. He cries, because He loves us. And we get so much wrong, even in the effort to do right-
We hurt ourselves.
And we struggle and strain and go on new diets and stick to exercise routines faithfully and calculate and count and measure and weigh—
And God says, “Oh my, child. If only you knew.”
So let me begin, to tell you what I think about dieting. About weight, food, and eating. I am not claiming I have it all figured out. I still doubt myself sometimes.
But the past three years have taught me a lot. There is a saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I hope this has made me stronger.
When I think about food I first go to the very basics. Feeding. Feeding is our first responsibility as a human being. It is one of them. What are we supposed to do the minute after we are born?
The crying is to tell others of our needs. The eating is to nourish our minds and bodies, and to bond with our mothers.
Now let me take you to say, someone with anorexia. I like to observe that the very first responsibilities of life are not being met. We have someone who is likely taking on way too much responsibility in so many other ways.
For myself, I worried for my family constantly. I tried to do everything perfect for them. I worked relentlessly. Yet I could not feed myself, and my voice to ask for help became quieter and quieter.
Feeding ourselves is a responsibility that even a newborn can be trusted with. They cry, because they are hungry, and they know it is hunger. There is no doubt in their mind saying maybe it’s just a sensation from being up too much without sleep, or perhaps it’s stress, or an unhealthy emotional desire for food. This person doesn’t care. And the newborn, in that regard is so extremely smart, because they know what they need without a hesitation, and therefore their body says, “Thanks! I’ll be precisely accurate when telling you when to stop and when to start next time!”
Did the baby diet for years to figure this out?
Did they read the newest science discovery on caloric intake and metabolism?
Yet somehow, the smallest of babies are ahead of us adults in this way. They know when to start, and they know when to stop. They know what tastes good and what does not. They know what is hunger and what is pain.
Yet we get them confused constantly.
Oh, I’m pleading with you all to see. I want you to know what I am talking about simply by looking at the basics.
The need we have to feed ourselves: it cannot be undermined. Anorexia becomes a problem when both basic responsibilities are unmet. Disordered eating is a problem, more so when it is only the latter of food. And so many of Americans fall within the throes of disordered eating.
And so what does it mean to be responsible for feeding ourselves? And what does it look like to not do so?
Let me begin.
I like to use examples in my writings. And I think I will use one this time.
When I was twelve I decided I wanted to lose weight. I knew very well of the dangers of losing weight, and I also knew full well that it would be unhealthy for a child my age. Something told me to look out for myself. So at dinnertime, when I would otherwise have wanted to eat a very small portion, I found myself eating close to normal sized portions, only because I knew that what I would do would be risky.
I didn’t feel good about forsaking my responsibility as a human being.
And I think too, in life we are not only responsible to feed ourselves. We are responsible to help feed those around us and to ensure they too have what is vital for life. I knew this as well, and I became very aware of what others might notice if they were to observe my eating less.
This says something. Someone in tune with their needs for food will automatically sense danger when heading the wrong direction. It’s not hard. The reason I found it so hard to restrict at the beginning was because I was alive to those needs. I wasn’t numbed. And that is where we ought to stay. Sometimes we go through something difficult in life and it becomes extremely easy to get desensitized from that which we need or need to do.
To be responsible for feeding means that the clarity is without question. I know when I am hungry and I know when I am full; I doubt it none the less than if you were to ask me if the sun were currently shining.
A responsible person will not feel okay with consistently getting less than what is appropriate for themselves. And they know this without any kind of external calculation. This person will also feel uncomfortable with getting a lot more than what they need. It will not be a pleasant experience and one they will not return to often.
Food is a complex thing. God did not make food to fill merely a physical hole. A baby nurses from their mother for a reason. We gather at the dinner table together for the same reason. To deny ourselves of food, is to deny ourselves of something more than what will strengthen us physically.
Fasting is a thing, and because it is biblical I am not going to say it is wrong for everyone. I will not get into the subject. However I do think fasting with exterior motives would be a huge temptation in this day and age.
I think that when we have it in mind that the goal with our diets and food is responsiblity, clarity will come more easily. When we know what we are about, there will not be hesitation. We should not need for someone else to motitor or look out for what we eat, nor should we need any kind of external control or motivator when it comes to food.
Food and Worry
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on; for is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
The Bible tells us strictly to not worry about food. It is not okay to be consumed with food, eating helathy, and eating right.
Why would God want our focus there?
Do we want our focus there?
On our deathbeds are we going to lay there and think, “I’m so glad I ate salads every day. Oh that soft drink I avoided! I am so glad I spent my life making sure I never ate over 2,000 calories.”
How fufilling is that? Is it pleasing to our creator?
Did He intend for us to spend our entire life figuring out how to do something a newborn already knows how to do?
Maybe God would rather instead we never forgot.
Key point: eating should come second hand. There should not be a lot of fuss, focus and worry. Eating is a natural part of life that should be very normal and easy.
Is food our idol?
I think Americans seriously need to begin to ask themselves this question. Food can become idolatry in more ways than one. Specifically, I am thinking about the diet industry. How many Americans feel that they are more confident on the days they “eat healthier?”
If you could automatically lose 20 pounds, would you?
Do you think about food in terms of how healthy it is usually when you go to eat?
Do you dream of being “healthier” or thinner?
Idolatry was treated seriously in the Bible. If we are letting food, diet, exercise and weight become more important to us than God and the people He puts into our lives, we are living in sin.
What about overeating?
I do think there is something as the sin of gluttony.
I don’t think every person who is fat or who “over eats” would fit into that category.
I also think it’s important to look clearly at the truth, not only on stigmas and things we’ve been taught by society. Fat does not equal unhealthy, nor does fat equal over eating. Over eating does not equal lack of discipline. We have to get it clear that serious problems that occur from obesity are not completely and only linked to food type and amount. It is very important we look at the whole person, the emotional state, the beliefs they have about food and themselves (and their esteem based on body image), along with family patterns and things they have been taught. Diet history is also extremely important.
I would lastly say that being fat is a complex problem America faces. Telling people to eat less or avoid certain stuff only adds problems to problems. That never works.
How should we then eat?
Let us look back to the newborn. He never hesitates or asks how to eat. He was born knowing how to do so.
At a mealtime, we should come excited. Food was made for us to enjoy it. We should come ready to share with others- the food at the table and the joy in our hearts. And we should come thankful.
I think that it is important to realize that finding one certain right way to eat, in terms of amounts or kinds of food, is always going to be the wrong way to go about it.
We make it a goal to listen to our bodies and to get enough according to what our bodies say. If we are otherwise healthy, enough should be sufficient.
The Miracle of the Human Body
One thing worthy of noting is the miracle of the body. We were made so inttactely and designed so meticulously. God put together perfect balances. He breathed life into us.
Can’t we trust that same God that He made our hunger signals to work?
I think that whenever we find ourselves in doubt, we should assure ourselves that God knows what He is doing. I think just like He said, we ought to take it one day at a time only worrying about today’s troubles. Listening to our body is as simple as getting sleep when we are tired and eating when we are hungry. It is not giving into every desire of our flesh. It is not over pampering ourselves. Sometimes we may need more than other times, and it is allowing for that. It is, like the cry of a newborn, speaking our need.
So, how much is too much? You tell me to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. Then what if I gain too much weight?
I do think our weight is related to the type of food we eat. Some foods do seem to make us gain more than others. However the reason to eat natural foods is not for this reason, eating food closer to the way God designed it is usually better for us. I do think that a balanced approach includes all foods and makes room for cravings. It is very unhealthy to restrict.
Weight may yo-yo on the beginning of a journey to strengthen your relationship with food. Eventually it will even out and find its happy place.
If you are eating meals and snacks regularly, including fats and proteins along with carbohydrates, drinking water and living a moderately active lifestyle, you will not be unhealthily overweight (unless you have a genetic disorder.) If you are unhappy with where your body settles when you listen to its hunger cues, that is your problem, not your body’s problem. You need to learn to be happy with the way God made you. Curves are normal. So is weighing over 150 pounds. We weren’t meant to be barbies.
God made food a pleasurable experience for a reason. The first sin began with a temptation of food. Food was eaten in the last supper, and bread is a symbol of God’s body. Food is symbolic.
We have learned that food fills our needs beyond the physical nourishment. It is not okay to purposely deprive ourselves from food. It is not okay to be persuaded by the new trends of diet culture and become obsessed with weight and image.
Eating disorders are very serious. Most of us know that first or second hand. I can tell you they are thought consuming and unpleasant to deal with. And extremely dangerous.
I want to leave with this question: if every person in the world who was affected first or second hand from an eating disorder decided to give up dieting and weight stigma completely, and spread awarness and advocate for others doing so, how soon would the world change?
Also this: when tempted to count calories, look at the stars; think of the planets. Try to count the sands of the sea or measure the strength of an ocean wave. Understand that everything works together in a balance and harmony that God made. Why would we second-guess His perfect measuring system for food- our hunger signals?
Why would we? If we live in a fallen world that idolizes skeletal frames, then we might.
Not if we love God and the way He made His world, and the way He made our miraculous bodies.
So, what will you take away from this? Will you take the time to share this, spread awarness, such as this post or in your own words?
Will you change your actions?
Will you change the way you think about weight and moral?
Will you dare to save a life?
I hope you will.