It was the perfect storm. My husband was away for five days and I was home alone with the kids. I had just got them settled with supper and stood in the kitchen contemplating the next thing on my to-do list. I was stressed out. I was tired. I was bored. I had a thought, “some sugar would perk you up. You deserve it. A few bites won’t hurt.” Before I gave it much thought, I decided to comply. As I took the first few bites I began to feel control slipping away. The casualty ended up being half a frozen tuxedo cake. Intellectually, I knew that cake could not solve any of my problems (only add to them actually), but something inside compelled me to stand there at the kitchen counter shovelling cake into my mouth while I stewed in self-pity and shame.
Something inside compelled me to stand there
at the kitchen counter shovelling cake into my mouth.
That little bout with the cake scared me. I had done so much work over the years to deal with my emotions rather than eat them. I had worked so hard at finding a way of eating that was predominantly healthy and not too restrictive. I had read so many books and blogs and listened to endless podcasts on health and wellness. I had grown closer to God than ever before—yearning for the freedom that I know is only found in Him. And there I was, hiding an empty cake container under all the other garbage, feeling like an addict that had relapsed. I could very much relate with Brennan Manning’s experience as an alcoholic:
“A ‘slip’ for an alcoholic is a terrifying experience. The obsession of the mind and body with booze returns with the wild fury of a sudden storm in springtime. When the person sobers up, he or she is devastated. When I relapsed, I had two options: yield once again to guilt, fear, and depression; or rush into the arms of my heavenly Father—choose to live as a victim of my disease; or choose to trust in Abba’s immutable love.”
You Are Never Alone
I wish so badly that I had some easy answers to share with you in this post. I wish there was an easy formula: “X + Y + a sprinkle of Jesus = never binge again!” I wish so badly that I could say that I discovered some secret and that was the last time I ever binged. What I do have to tell you is that you are never alone. My biggest takeaway from struggling with emotional and binge eating is that God NEVER gives up on me.
“Love bears all things (regardless of what comes), believes all things (looking for the best in each one), hopes all things (remaining steadfast during difficult times), endures all things (without weakening).”
God’s love is unchanging. That means God loves me in my mess—He loves me with my hand packing chocolate into my mouth and He loves me bloated and over-stuffed with food. If I went through my day perfectly and resisted the urge to eat chocolate, HE WOULD FIND ME NO MORE LOVABLE. He loves me in the two steps forward AND the one step back. I am loved and accepted as I am, nothing I have done or will ever do can make me more or less lovable in His sight. Jesus took every dirty and undesirable part of me when He sacrificed His life. As Jesus hung dying on the cross, God the Father hid His face from His Son so that He would NEVER have to hide His face from me.
“Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.”
You Are Free Even if You Don’t FEEL Like It
If you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour—you are RIGHTEOUS AND FREE (If you haven’t taken that life-changing leap yet, check out my START HERE page). You were a damsel in distress and He came to your rescue. The door of your cage has been swung wide open. Your status is FREE, but it will take a while for your identity in Christ to become your day-to-day reality. Freedom is a journey, not a destination. You are free from having a negative relationship with food and your body, but you still have to learn how to have a positive one.
Freedom is a journey, not a destination.
Let Go of Shame
We live in a culture that is all up in arms about shaming anyone regarding their sexuality but has no problem shaming someone for the shape of their body or the food they choose to eat. We have this strange code of morality surrounding food even though the Bible makes it clear that what and how you choose to eat are personal choices:
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you must eat or drink”
Shame is never ok and it is never productive. After we’ve messed up with food we often feel the need to punish ourselves with shame and judgement. We think that if we feel badly enough or are mean enough to ourselves it will motivate us to finally change. That’s an absolutely wrong and damaging belief.
Step one: Run to God as fast as you can—don’t hide from Him, He’s not mad! Even if you’re still working on swallowing the last bite you took, start talking to Him. Tell Him what you’re feeling, voice out loud to Him the thoughts that were running through your mind that drove you to binge, and ask for His clarity and strength. Ask Him to remind you of who you truly are—you are not trapped in this negative cycle with food, you are FREE.
Step two (get ready, this is a hard one): FORGIVE YOURSELF.
“Forgiveness is the first step to changing your relationship with food and your body permanently. Forgive yourself for putting your body through all that you’ve put her through up until this point—whether that be bingeing, starving, or calling her fat until she could no longer imagine another way to feel. Forgive yourself for “not getting it” until now (if now), and for continuing to be human and imperfect in your relationship with food. Forgive yourself for polishing off whatever bag of food you polished off last night in a state of chaos, confusion, and self-loathing. You were doing the best that you could to take care of yourself in that moment, with the tools that you’ve been taught up until this point.”
Forgiving and accepting yourself as you are is a catalyst for positive change. When you accept and even begin to (gasp!) like yourself, you will naturally make more nurturing choices for yourself. Turns out, tuxedo cake isn’t evil after all. When I love myself (and my body!) and recognize that I am free to have it or not have it, I can make a choice that I feel good about.
It May Be Just a Habit
Be compassionate with yourself. Even if you feel like you should “know better.” According to Kathryn Hansen’s book Brain Over Binge, bingeing is actually a self-protective mechanism belonging to the primitive part of your brain:
“When it comes to addiction, the animal brain works against us. When someone is addicted, the animal brain falsely believes that the addictive substance is necessary for survival and therefore drives the addicted person to the substance, as though it is just as vital as water or oxygen.”
At some point you may have gone on a diet and restricted your calorie intake. The animal part of your brain then freaked out and drove you to overeat in order to compensate—because a shortage of food equals extinction. It doesn’t get the memo and think, “oh no worries, she just wants to lose a few pounds.” Your animal brain is also the part responsible for the fight or flight response. If you’re feeling a little stressed in traffic, it naturally assumes that there’s a predator after you. If you then pull a chocolate bar out of your purse—and the resulting serotonin hit relaxes you—your animal brain then thinks, “Perfect! Chocolate fixes emergencies! We’ll have to remind her of that next time.”
Bingeing is actually a self-protective mechanism
belonging to the primitive part of your brain.
Your animal brain is incapable of long-term thinking, it doesn’t care that you are trying to lower your sugar intake so that you don’t develop diabetes down the line, it simply wants to solve the immediate problem. When you recognize that your bingeing, overeating or emotional eating may simply be a negative habit wired in your brain, you can take any shame out of the equation and focus on instilling new, more positive habits. I highly recommend checking out Kathryn Hansen’s work; She even has a free “Brain Over Binge Basics” ebook available on her website (brainoverbinge.com). Sometimes we simply need to see what we struggle with in a new way to be empowered to make better choices.
Practice Makes Permanent
You may have heard the saying, “practice makes permanent.” Freedom from addictions and bad habits takes practice. I am free… and I am practicing being free. And that’s ok. I may or may not binge again, but in one way or another, I guarantee I WILL stumble again. I WILL need help. Thank goodness I have a God who NEVER tires of rescuing me.
“Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.”
I am not in this alone, and neither are you. Every time you stumble, He is there to pick you back up so you can start walking forward again. This is something you are going to have to keep working at and practicing until you begin to see permanent changes. Throw off the shame and negative thinking that slows you down. Focus on learning new truths and tools that can quicken the pace of your freedom walk. And above all else, be patient and compassionate with yourself. After all, freedom is a journey, not a destination.
Where are you on your freedom walk? Are you ready to throw off shame and negative thinking? What are some truths or tools that are helping quicken your pace? Share with us in the comments below!