It took a long time for me to develop a healthy relationship with food.
Since the development of my Ulcerative Colitis and the onset of my anorexia 8 years ago, food has never been just food. There was always something associated with it. Obviously with anorexia, I associated food with anxiety, fear, weight gain, panic, obligation, performance, deceit, etc. — Clearly, it carried some baggage. With my Ulcerative Colitis, when I was in a flare, food was associated with pain. That definitely played a factor in my anorexia, but by the end of it, I was manipulating that fact, and using it as a pawn in the game of my deception.
So there was that. So it’s really hard for me to remember a time when food was simply food and there was nothing attached to it. No fears, no worries, no “shoulds or shouldn’ts.”
Plus, there was a good chunk of time in my “recovery” where I was just eating one big meal a day. I didn’t know how to eat without feeling like I was going to “eat the house.” Maybe you can relate. Looking back now, I think I was probably experiencing “extreme hunger” that is talked about with Minnie Maud because I was so underweight and not giving my body adequate nutrients throughout the day.
So there was that relationship with food – feeling out of control. This is the opposite pendulum swing that is so often experienced by girls in recovery from anorexia.
But I’ve never really experienced a relationship with food were I wasn’t eating to gain or lose weight.
For the past couple years, I can honestly say that I am in a good place with my relationship with food.
I eat three meals a day. Don’t restrict. Am able to enjoy “splurges” here and there without feeling guilty or like I’m going to eat the entire pantry.
And here’s the kicker: I enjoy food again.
I realized this over Easter when I was joyfully eating jelly beans with my sister-in-law. We were combining different beans to make “gourmet creations.” (Hello banana split and root beer float!) I used to be terrified of jelly beans. I was so afraid of them because they were candy. A “useless food.” I mean, a jelly bean has freaking four calories per bean. That is nothing. But it used to petrify me, because they were sugar calories.
So what changed? How’d I do it?
First, I started eating regularly.
And I mean it. Regularly. Breakfast. Lunch. Snack. And Dinner. Every day. No exceptions.
And none of this, “skin of a green apple counts as lunch” shit. No. We’re talking nutritionally sound, balanced meals.
You see, when I was just eating one big meal, it’s no wonder that I would feel like I wanted to “eat the house.” — My body was literally starving – ravenous for fuel. Feed your body regularly! Normal portions! It’s that simple! (And I hope I don’t come across as yelling at you. Because I’m definitely not. This was just what I told myself when I finally got my life together) 🙂
Secondly – this gets a little more serious here, so just hang with me.
I made my body an act of worship.
Here’s the thing: my body is not my own.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
That may sound silly, but my body was entrusted to me by God. It was a gift. He made it especially for me. And He lives in it.
Woah. Hold the phone.
I know, I know. I’m spittin’ some theology at ya here. But the only reason I can battle ED everyday is because I’ve asked Jesus to live in my heart and to fight that battle for me. And He does.
And so because Jesus is living in my heart, I need to treat my body accordingly.
I need to take care of it. Nourish it. Not punish it with extreme exercise – but with gentleness. With compassion.
But even though I knew that, and even though I wanted to live like that, it was still impossibly difficult to actually do. I wanted to treat my body with the respect that I knew Jesus deserved, but I just couldn’t do it.
So I talked to my priest about it and here’s what he said: And it has stuck with me ever since: Make your body a spiritual act of worship.
So what the heck does that mean?
That means that every bite of food I take is a way for me to say thank you to God – a way to say I love you. Every meal I eat is a way to show God gratitude for saving my life and preventing me from dying from anorexia. Every time I resist the urge to overexercise, I am praising God for His greatness. Every time I am gentle with myself, I am saying thank you to God for giving me a second chance.
Taking care of my body has literally become a form of prayer for me. A form of praising. An act of worship.
Do I still have bad days? Yes. Do I still slip up sometimes. Absolutely. But having this mindset makes me pause and give it a second thought when I’m about to give in to ED. It’s one more line of defense.
So what does this look like?
Well, sometimes I talk to myself. 🙂
Not like I used to. I don’t berate myself with F-bombs or language that tears me down and rips me to shreds. Although, in all honesty, that does still happen from time to time.
But sometimes I give myself a stern talking to. A moment of #RealTalk, if you will. It comes from a place of love, but I don’t mince words. I say:
“Listen up, Self. Are you treating yourself like your body is a dwelling place of the Lord? Are you treating it the way you would if you really believed that God was in there? Seriously. If God walked through your apartment door right now, how would you treat Him? I bet you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh hey, God! Now drop everything and go run 5 miles at high noon!’ No way, Jose. Self, you’ve been given this tremendous gift – this incredible body that frankly, you’re not treating as though you appreciate. You are a fighter. You are strong. And you are capable of truly taking care of yourself. If not for you, then do it for the Big Guy living inside of you!“
See, here’s the thing with life in recovery: Every day is different. And on some days, you’ll need to hear one thing, where on other days, you’ll need to hear another. It all depends. You’ve got to become a detective to figure out what you need to hear that day that will make you beat ED. Some days it’s getting pissed at ED for robbing me of my life. Other days it’s a stern pep talk like this. Other days it’s rejoicing in recovery and how far I’ve come.
But everyday, it’s keeping my eyes focused on Jesus.
It was hard for me to believe and accept that Jesus would choose to live inside such a broken vessel like myself. But He does. And He lives inside of you, too. So how will your life be different as a result?