Food is one of my obsessions. I can still taste the garlicky, lemony, minty tang of the fattoush I savored (devoured?) a little while ago. When I was in high school, I would pride myself on eating a completely fat-free breakfast (Total cereal with skim milk and fruit) and lunch (school-lunch salad with fat-free dressing). Then, I'd gorge myself on the homemade meal that my mom would serve to our family for dinner. I'd eat so much that I would lay on the floor afterward moaning, "I ate too much." Somewhat dysfunctional, wouldn't you say?
Unfortunately, I continued this cycle of deprivation and overindulgence in the dorm cafeteria at college. Unfortunate, not because I gained a lot of weight, but unfortunate due to the emotional reliance on food I developed. Eventually, I became bulimic.
My freshman year of college, I ran track. I developed awesome muscular thighs. I also turned nineteen and grew hips out of my previously boyish frame. Not a problem until my eating continued on over-drive my sophomore year when I was no longer running on the team. Again, I didn't gain a lot of weight, but I felt self-conscious about my body and guilty when I ate too much. So, to me, throwing up my too-big dinner was a way of correcting it. And, I'd always gotten a lot of praise for my skinny body. I was no longer unique in this way but rather normal.
I knew that it was wrong and dangerous. I tried to stop my behaviors. I repeated confessed my sins. I couldn't stop. My struggle continued for a year and a half. I didn't throw up every day. It never caused me to lose weight- just kept my overeating under control. Well, my eating wasn't under control- I just undid a little of it.
Several things happened that allowed me to be victorious over this disease and regain wholeness with regard to my body image and food:
1. I dislocated my knee in tumbling class. It was the only injury I've ever had requiring medical attention. God's plan had a twist of irony. Because of my injury, I wasn't physically able to squat by the toilet to throw up. Also, I realized that as humans our bodies are so valuable and yet fragile. An injury can happen to easily. So, why was I purposely doing something that could harm my body?
2. I was involved in a Chiristian ministry. Slowly I began telling others about my struggle. I had heard that confessing a secret sin breaks its power. In my experience, this was quite true.
3. God renewed my mind through His word. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I know that full well. Psalm 139:14 I also had to train myself to eat more reasonably. Sounds quirky, but before I reached for a snack in my dorm room, I made myself read a Proverb. I also wanted to make sure my true hunger was for the things of God.
4. I had to train my mind also to not study the bodies of other women. I would compare parts of my body to theirs to see how I measured up. I still longed to find my significance in my body. I had to remind myself that my friends valued me not for the shape of my body.
5. I became much less legalistic with my eating. I have learned to enjoy quality foods. I rarely reach for the fat-free option. I try to eat foods close to the way God made them.
Remarkably, I never had to seek professional help for my bulimia. It helps me to share my story with others and to practice healthy habits of mind, spirit, and body.
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