I am constantly amazed at how often I connect with women who are currently dealing with eating disorders or in recovery. But when I really sit back and think about it, I wonder why I would be surprised. Food is EVERYWHERE. It surrounds us not only as nourishment, but entertainment and stress relief. It’s available, convenient and delicious, like a faithful friend that is there for you when you need them. A comfort, but also an addiction. It can be that best friend and it can be the worst enemy. Why is it that SO MANY women are struggling with overeating or engaging in this cycle of binge and restriction?
Food is good.
It’s no surprise that the Bible brings up the subject of food almost immediately in the very first book. Genesis 1:29 (paraphrased) says that God, out His love for us, has given us food for both nourishment AND pleasure. He WANTS us to enjoy food because it shows that we are rejoicing in one of His gifts to us. Why then, have we abused this gift? There are a few reasons.
1) We have elevated food to be a higher god than God. It has become an idol, something we worship, something we think about 24/7. It has become an idol because we know that FOOD has the power to change our bodies for better or worse. It has become an idol because we turn to FOOD for comfort before we turn to God, the only One that can truly satisfy that deep loneliness. OR—
2) We have been miseducated about food. We diet, diet, diet SO hard all week as a punishment to our bodies, trying to become thinner and thinner. We restrict ourselves from all the goods, treats, candy and other junk food, believing only certain foods are permissible for us to eat. Sooner or later, we become so weary of this discipline, and we cave. Bring on the binge. There is only so much self-control and will power before we give in again. Guilt sets in and the cycle starts all over again with restriction—a punishment for the binge. How will we ever break free from this slavery?
Since we know that food is a good and necessary thing, we need to now understand the boundaries and limits we are to operate within. Let me first be VERY clear about something. God does not EVER specify any right body type, size, shape or weight. I wholeheartedly believe that being created in His image means encompassing His character and heart more than a perfectly fit body as we may envision. Perfectly fit is not the goal. Transforming our hearts to understand how HONORING Him with how we conduct ourselves is the true goal. Results will follow accordingly. If we continue in our gluttony (our obsessive love for food), we will have consequences of not only weight gain, but lack of energy, inability to keep up with kids and increased risk for heart disease and other related health concerns. If we can slowly, diligently surrender to a new way of thinking—a way of living more out of intention and less out of habit, we will begin to see the reward of a changing heart— and in turn, a changing body. Again, your body looking a certain way is not the goal. Our hearts desire to put Jesus in His rightful place (at the center of everything we do.. and eat) is the goal.
All bodies are unique… on purpose.
Do we really believe that happiness comes in a size or aesthetic? We must, or else there would not be so much dissatisfaction with our own body image. What’s the first thing I think of when I see myself in the mirror and HATE what I see? Man, I gotta get my butt to the gym. Check out this stat- the gym/fitness industry pulls in about $20 billion a year. What’s more astounding is that the WEIGHT LOSS industry pulls in 6 times that.. $120 billion. There’s a disconnect here. First of all, NEWSFLASH: working out is not FUN for most people. If it was, the gyms would be packed like every day was January 1st with people lined up outside the door just DYING to get on a treadmill. But you know what is fun? Food. And it is everywhere you turn. You don’t even have to get out of your car to get it.
Just as each body is different, we all have totally different lives, different jobs, activity levels and life patterns. We sleep different, eat differently and drink differently. We must start to see our own uniqueness as a BENEFIT, rather than a curse. If I am dissatisfied with my body, I am either suffering the consequences of imbalanced eating (eating more for pleasure OR just eating more than I burn) OR I am dissatisfied with my genetics — which is a nice way of saying “God, you did a bad job on me. All that knitting together in my mother’s womb? All that time, attention and creative detail? Yeah.. I don’t like it.” Ouch.
Knowing our weaknesses comes natural. I can tell you (before you even ask) what I’m insecure about, what my “problem areas” are and how I really want to get rid of “this” part of my body. Knowing our strengths takes practice. I’ve always had a muscular build and have been an athlete all growing up. As I have become less active into my 20’s and 30’s (and still just as hungry as usual) I have put on excess body fat, covering my muscular frame. It bothered me when I would try clothes on in stores (ugh, that awful lighting and those mirrors don’t lie) and shuttered when I saw photos of myself at not-my-best angle. My mind could easily take me to a dark place. Self-hatred, shame and embarrassment could set in. Somehow, God has always captivated my heart first. Jesus died for us to be set free from the sin—the slavery, the bondage and the consequences for eternity, but it’s up to us to choose how we live here and now. Is striving after a perfect body something that should take first priority? Probably not. At least it has never really been at the top of my list. But, can I be more intentional, more careful and more honoring to God by the way that I eat and move? YES. This transition for me has taught me more about discipline and eating within boundaries, and in turn, provided the reward of change. It was a heart decision first.
Now, what does this look like? Do I pray before every bite I take, asking the Lord to use this food for His glory within my body? No, not that dramatic. Let me give you a quick scenario to give you an idea of what it means to eat for YOUR glory or for GOD’S glory. YOUR glory means you have elevated YOURSELF and your body image as the most important player in the game. GOD’S glory is a balanced, moderate way to view food and your body as His temple.
When you’re offered a cookie and you refuse because you’re afraid it will make you fat. (YOUR glory – elevating yourself and idolizing your body to the extreme)
When you’re offered a cookie and you take it (and take 5 more after that). (YOUR glory-in the moment, bingeing, finding comfort in food)
When you’re offered a cookie and you refuse because you’ve already had a treat or you’re planning on enjoying something later (GOD’S glory-balance, moderation, planning ahead)
When you’re offered a cookie and you take it because you’ve made healthy, intentional choices all day and a cookie is perfectly fine to enjoy (GOD’S glory – balance and pleasure)
Go ahead, EAT.
Whether you know much about the Bible or not, most everyone is familiar with Adam and Eve. In Genesis, chapter 3, back in the Garden of Eden, God gives clear instruction that they can eat ANYTHING… except the one forbidden fruit. Of course, the one she was strongly advised NOT to eat she wanted the most. You know how the story goes.. she caved. Typical woman 🙂 I would do the same, no doubt. The point is, it goes to show that our human nature (dating all the way back to Eve) wants what she can’t have. Let me tell you something amazing. ALL FOOD IS OK BECAUSE ALL FOOD IS MADE UP OF THE SAME 3 THINGS: CALORIES BY WAY OF CARBS, FAT and PROTEIN — necessary macronutrients to live. Here’s my challenge to you. Get to know food and what it’s made up of. I’m not talking about picking all the ingredients apart and eating only clean foods. It’s GREAT if you have the ability to do so, but for me, it’s not practical. If you told me that all I could eat was chicken breasts, brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits and veggies.. I might die. But first, I would punch you. As much as I appreciate the INTENTION behind the Whole 30 movement, in my opinion it has FUELED the myths of good food/bad food. YES, it is important to fuel your body with as many whole, nutrient-dense foods as possible. NO, it is not PRACTICAL to live this way every single day for the rest of your life, dealing with the guilt every time you consume something outside those guidelines. The less we restrict ourselves from the things we really want, the less we will see them as the forbidden fruit. This isn’t full permission to go buck wild on a bag of tortilla chips and salsa. This means enjoy chips and salsa in moderation and you won’t HAVE to go buck wild on it when you’re having an off day. What I mean by getting to know food is this: chips and salsa, for example, are made up of carbs and fat. SURPRISE: your body will process this snack EXACTLY the same as if you ate a DIFFERENT carb and fat for a snack like a brown rice and almonds. Ok, chips and salsa, please. Feel me?
Know your boundaries (a scientific approach)
There are a few basic, scientific principles that have changed my life this year from a physiological standpoint. I’m going to give you a few items that are the SAME EXACT breakdown of macros so that you can see that they are equal swaps. HEAR ME — the whole food, nutrient dense, obviously-better-for-you-choice is GREAT to choose 70-80% of the time. But know that the more fun, pleasurable options will process (from a physiological standpoint) exactly the same in your body, yielding the exact same results as if you were to choose 100% clean food. That’s the glory of knowing macros. For example, say it’s the end of the night and you have 30g carbs left in your day. There are 30g carbs in a medium-sized red potato OR in 30 Hot Tamales. If you have a hankering for a potato, more power to you, but 9 times out of 10, I’m choosing the Hot Tamales. Here’s another one: a green juice from your local juicer with a handful of walnuts is roughly the same macro breakdown as your favorite Dunkin Donut. Hold the phone.. and the juice. I’m getting a donut. Please hear and see the balance in all of this. I don’t ALWAYS choose the junk, I allow it to fit into my plan. I wouldn’t be a believer in this method if I haven’t put it to the test over the past 9 months. It’s science and it works. We just have to stay within the calorie/macro limit. To calculate how many calories you need in a day, along with your recommended macro breakdown, use this ONLINE MACRO CALCULATOR. Also, if you haven’t already, read MY PERSONAL STORY and an article on REVERSE DIETING. If you are interested in having someone I trust coach you thought this process of what I believe is true FREEDOM from myths and guilt associated with food, head to my home page and scroll down to the blue cupcakes to connect with a coach (#5 on the options!)
Know your boundaries (an emotional approach)
There are benefits to putting yourself on strict diet for a period of time. Maybe you need to cleanse, start fresh, break habits. I get that. But re-introducing the foods you love into your diet has it’s bigger benefits! But first, be honest with what can be slippery slopes for you. For me, chips and salsa is a weakness. I allow myself to have it, but I measure out (or discreetly count) a serving in my hand rather than sit on the couch with the bag on my lap. Same with candy, cereal and all the delicious baked goods. I love to bake, but a huge pitfall for me is licking the spoon (you may want to think twice about accepting treats from me) 🙂 So, I enjoy a little taste, share with my kids, but have to rinse out the bowl pretty much immediately. These are just practical ways for me to avoid falling into overindulging. I almost ALWAYS enjoy one of the cupcakes I bake with my kids. I just track it into My Fitness Pal and it logs in as roughly 35g carbs and 14g fat. That just deducts from the total allotment of carbs and fat I have for the day. As of now, I start my day with 1,950 calories. That’s 255g carbs, 43g fat and 130g protein. So, after the cupcake, I still have 220g carbs, 29g fat and 130g protein.. that’s plenty for about 4-5 more meals!! Are you starting to see the freedom? Understanding food and recovering from the FEAR of food is a process. But I would have never learned it if I hadn’t practiced it. Tracking macros for me has given me FREEDOM with food choices, released me from GUILT and brought me more pleasure (and results!!) that I’ve never had with food ever in my life. My heart desires to see women break free from the bondage of food slavery and start enjoying food within boundaries, in turn, start enjoying their bodies and loving the image they see. After all, it’s God’s creation and He called it good.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with body image issues and you live in the Phoenix area, please contact one of my long-time friends and colleagues, Melodee Bosna, who specializes in Body Image Therapy. Click HERE or call her directly at 623.209.8134
Or, if you feel like you may need more clinical help regarding an eating disorder, please review a list of these recommendations:
Adolescents: DOORWAYS in Arizona
NEDA is a great resource as well!