Binge Eating: The Skeleton In My Closet

 

My daughter is sleeping on the couch, my husband has left for NYC, and my son is snoring away in his room while his body fights a bit of a cold. 

And here I sit in the stillness, the quiet, talking to my Lord….and I just can’t get this part of my life story-my fitness story- off my mind.  So I’m going to share with you in case it is a timely word for someone else out there.

Around our second year of marriage I was teaching in a private Christian school.  I had about two years of focused exercise under my belt.  I was running around the neighborhood after work or at the local YMCA and using weight machines.   

If any of you are teachers you know that a lot of food passes by your desk due to holiday parties, students’ birthdays, teacher’s luncheons, etc.  Not to mention the bagged candy that parents bring in just in case you “need it for something”.  (Now I know that this is just parents getting candy out of their own houses.)

At this point in my journey I was beginning to get the exercise thing down.  I was feeling and seeing the benefits of it.  I was also afraid to be without it for fear I would slip back into my old unfit shape.

You see I was exercising so I could support my use of eating as a coping skill.  My eating habits were the same I was just better able to hide them with exercise.  

I was an emotional eater.  After the kids would go to lunch or go home after school, I would open the drawer of my desk and munch away on whatever was there.  It was just me and my food relaxing cozily together after  long day of work.

It was stressful being a teacher, heck, life was stressful period.  And stuffing my mouth with whatever candy, cookies, cake, chips was in my desk (or in the teacher breakroom) was pure bliss…. at least for a couple of minutes.

Unfortunately, guilt would follow and I would be filled with shame.  So, to make myself feel better I would work extra hard on my run, or at the treadmill, or at the weight machines.

I was dogged by the draw of food.  It was controlling me and I thought that through exercise I held the reins.  But I was the one who was fooled and I knew it deep down.  I wanted to be free.  And fortunately, God did too.

On one very memorable day, I had opened the desk drawer after another day of work, and taken out a bag of Chips a Hoy.  I don’t even like them that much, so it was obvious I was turning to them for comfort.  Honestly, anything would have done it for me.

I ate the entire bag.  (It must have been one heck of a day.)

I drove home feeling horrible about myself once again.  I threw my gym clothes on, got my Walkman,  and made my way to “the path” as penance for my sins.

“The Path” was a train track, cemented over into a wide path, that ran from Providence, RI through our town and a number of others, ending at a park on the bay in a town called Bristol.  It has a beautiful scenic view as it winds through trees, neighborhoods, along the water….just gorgeous.  All four seasons people can be found biking, rollerblading, jogging, walking, pushing strollers, on this path.

Any other day I would have a plan, “I’ll go to this point and then turn around and head home.”  Not this day.  I just started running.

And then I ran some more…..and some more…. and before I knew it I was in Bristol.  I turned around and ran some more.  I was praying, singing, crying, soaking in the beautiful surroundings that God created. 

And in the middle of it, something inside of my heart just broke free

I was brimming with joy.  Some people would explain it away as endorphins or that I hit a runner’s stride in which they break through a plateau of sorts.

But I had felt endorphins before.  And I had only been running about three, maybe four miles at a time up to this point.  On this day I ran 12 1/2 miles.   (Someone explained to me later that I had run a half marathon.)

I got to the end of myself and crossed a barrier of bondage that day.  In prayer and thanksgiving I brought my frustration with myself and my binge eating before God and just threw up my hands and said, “Here it is God.  It may always be this way but I don’t want it to be.  And I don’t think you want it that way either.  ‘Thy will be done’.”  (A prayer that always gets answered by the way when poured out by a submissive heart.)

And God in His faithfulness answered my prayer.

In the following months the Holy Spirit revealed to my heart, so I would believe it personally, that food is a blessing and that God created my body to tell me what it needed.  I didn’t cut out sugar entirely, or go on some fad diet.  I just started adding good, healthful foods to my diet, tweaked what I had already been eating (whole wheat bread for white for example) and started slowing down the physical act of eating.  I tasted my food for the first time….really tasted and savored it. 

And for the first time I actually craved spinach.  (Okay, I knew that HAD to be God because I never had a desire to eat spinach before.)   But my body needed it and let me know. 

For the first time in my life I felt healthy inside as well as outside.

Praise be to God, I had married a man who worked in the restaurant industry.  Through his job I had the opportunity to eat at five-star restaurants where  food is an art form and eating is an experience in itself.

It totally changed my relationship to food.  Food was not the enemy anymore.

Food is a gift from God, given to nourish us and bring us pleasure.  It draws us to the table to fellowship with family and friends and it reminds us that we have a Creator who is so wonderful that He made it in a variety of forms.  I think it delights Him when we delight in it.  Food is one of His many masterpieces. 

It was never meant to master us.

I came across a book nine years later written by a woman who I would describe as a “kindred spirit” when it comes to this subject.  Mireille Guiliano wrote the book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure“.  The book jacket summarizes:

          “French women don’t get fat, but they do enjoy bread and pastry, wine, and regular three course meals…Emphasizing freshness, variety, balance, and always pleasure, Mireille shows how virtually anyone can learn to eat, drink, and move like a French women.”

You may not agree with French politics but it can’t be denied that the French are one of many people groups who have a well-known love for food and yet seem to not wear it- literally- on their hips.

Now, that we have begun a thread of discussion about time management in our high-heeled lives, lets begin a discussion about our relationship to food.  If there is anything I know about living a life in high heels it’s that we can discuss many things all at once and still know what we are talking about.  (Ha , ha )  Right ladies? 🙂

As I begin discussing our relationship to food I will talk about some of the thoughts I have gleaned from Mireille’s book.  My goal is that you can say with me,  ” ‘Au Revoir’  unhealthy eating!  There’s a new master in town!”       

 

 

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