From the Inside Out
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"One Thing" -- 11 January 2020
I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore.
It's not that I don't believe in striving to better myself; it's that I want my process of personal growth to be a constant in my life, not some hasty, hopeful, beginning-of-the-year promise that quickly fades into obscurity. The truth is, as Christians, we can either continue to grow and be refined in our faith, or we stagnate and start to die. There's no such thing as a "good enough Christian." Until the day we leave this earth, our focus should be on becoming more and more like Jesus. The fact that we will never fully attain this goal, while still in mortal flesh, should not discourage us from striving to become all that God created us to be.
Sadly, that's not where most of us put our focus. We are far more interested in changing the temporal, rather than the eternal elements of our being. If I had to guess, I'd bet the number one New Year's resolution made, throughout the world, is to lose weight and eat healthier.
You know it's true.
Even non-food addicts love to embrace the challenge a new year presents to change the way they eat. And while I don't believe there are any "big secrets," only daily disciplines (a la Pastor Johnny Green), which can help you work toward this goal, there is one simple thing that ALL believers should implement in this quest. If there is just ONE THING you change this year in your eating habits, let it be this:
Pray before you eat.
Don't laugh; It's not as simple as it sounds.
In fact, most people will miss the profound power of this small act, simply because it seems too easy! But the Kingdom of Heaven was never meant to be complicated. Matthew 18:3 tells us that, unless we become like little children, we will never get into Heaven. So, before you scoff at such an elementary idea, hear me out:
My Scripture for this year is actually the foundational Scripture for my book:
"But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." -- Matthew 6:33 KJV
The New Living Translation puts it this way: "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."
Most people believe that passage is only referring to our physical needs, but when I was first walking out my own healing journey, three words jumped off the page and touched my very soul: "everything you need."
That includes self-control, and wisdom, and discernment. That includes grace, and mercy, and emotional healing. Everything means EVERYTHING. And if what you need most, right now, is for God to change the way you look at food, and the way you eat, then that's part of it, too.
So, why wouldn't you make this daily discipline part of your New Year's resolution to lose weight and eat healthier? Asking the Lord to not only bless the food you eat, but to give you supernatural wisdom to make good choices, and to give you the self-control to eat only what you need, should be your first priority! After all, if you could do it alone, you wouldn't be here, making the same resolution you make year after year, once again. Why not add this to your regimen? What harm could it do? I double-dog dare you to test God in this!
I challenge you, in this new year of 2020, to implement this one thing, and see if it doesn't change your life. It certainly changed mine. Let 2020 be the year that you embrace Matthew 6:33 with all your heart, and SEEK GOD FIRST in every area of your life. I promise, this is one resolution you will never regret.
--- Summer Ameen Kelly
"God-Made Lemonade"🍋-- 9 April 2019
I know it's been awhile since I've posted here and for that, I apologize... I also apologize for the length of this post, but I hope you'll stay with me because what I have to tell you is important and someone out there is supposed to hear this truth.
They say: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," but that's not always so simple when you're trying to juggle all the lemons you've been dealt!
Life is funny that way... You're going along, thinking you are doing everything you're supposed to be doing and you become lulled into a sense of complacency.
Then come the curveballs... or, in this case, lemons.🍋🍋🍋
In the late fall of 2017, I made the decision -- with absolute certainty -- to step back from teaching my class, and reduce my other commitments, so I could focus on finishing my book and getting it published. I knew that I knew that I KNEW this was what God was telling me to do! I had no misgivings, no hesitation, and I did not waver one iota in my decision. I just KNEW that 2018 would be the year I devoted everything to the mission God had placed before me.
Well, not so much... 😕
You see, I absolutely had heard God right, in that I was supposed to scale back from all of my commitments, but it wasn't for the reason I believed. I'm incredibly thankful now that I acted in obedience because He could see what I couldn't:
That Christmas, my mother got really sick. We don't know if it started with the flu or what, but she was sick for about three weeks, which led to her becoming dehydrated and physically run down. Unbeknownst to her, she developed a minor infection (a UTI), which then grew into an enormous problem. She became septic. Sepsis happens when your body's immune system becomes overwhelmed and kind of freaks out, resulting in an extreme, life-threatening response. This "hyper-immune response" releases chemicals into your blood, causing systemic failure and (often) irrevocable damage to your organs. In fact, a significant number of people who become septic do not survive.
My mother was an exception. ❤️
To make a long story somewhat shorter, I'll just say: My mother went from being completely independent, living alone, driving, and having lunch with friends, to needing complete, full-time care.
After she was released from the rehab facility in late January of 2018, I drove to Arkansas and brought her home to live with us, where she has lived ever since.
I'm not gonna lie; those first few weeks were extremely hard. Honestly, I cried daily because I was utterly overwhelmed by my mother's need for care. It's hard enough to see our parents grow older and need our help. It's another thing, altogether, when it happens overnight. My mom was too young to be in this fragile state! And I still had children at home. This wasn't supposed to happen at this stage in life! (Yes, I'll admit, I was whining.) It was especially hard because my mom had always been strong and independent. Now, she needed help with the smallest of tasks. And while I was incredibly grateful God had spared her, I was also completely unprepared for what followed her bout with sepsis. In my frustration and fear, I cried out to God. I also stamped my feet and pouted, prayed and worshipped, and silently begged Him to just hurry up and heal her already...
It didn't always seem like it at the time, but He was hearing and answering every prayer. Healing didn't happen overnight; In fact, we are still walking it out. In those early months, it felt like an arduous, uphill journey, and we faced numerous setbacks along the way. It often seemed like we were taking two steps forward and one step back, and many days, I was so frustrated, I struggled to hold on to hope. Progress seemed so painfully slow at times. My days were suddenly filled with back-to-back doctor appointments, labwork, home health visits, and physical and occupational therapy. My mother also now required a special diet, so she couldn't eat the same things we were eating, and she needed a ridiculous number of prescriptions on a complicated schedule. I found myself scouring the internet and various medical journals for information on each of her ailments in my efforts to better manage her care.
Slowly, but surely, she started growing stronger, and I began to see God's faithfulness from a whole new perspective.
I've often mentioned -- in my class, as well as my book -- how I felt like I wasted more than a decade of my life focused on diet and nutrition and health. I had studied endocrinology (I'll take that honorary medical degree now, thank you very much), trying to understand how different foods affect glucose levels, and learning how the pituitary and various hormones could influence overall health. Doggedly, I had studied how the body uses carbohydrates, calories, and fat, as well as the various theories for thermal efficiency, or how exercise benefits weight loss. I had dabbled in naturopathic practices for improving health -- particularly overcoming adrenal exhaustion and regulating digestion. And I had read up on just about every diet plan known to man!
For me, in my quest to "fix myself," all of my labors were in vain. For me, knowledge was NOT power. Despite my education and understanding, that knowledge proved powerless to free me from my addiction to food. Knowing how to eat healthy did nothing to correct my compulsive misuse of the food I was eating.
Thus, I believed that all of that time had been wasted.
Well, let me just tell you:
When we ask God to redeem our lives, He wastes NOTHING.‼️
All of those years of obsessive study and research were put to use when Mom came to live with us. Suddenly, the information that had proved useless for me, personally, was unbelievably relevant to her need! I began using those dusty, old tools to help her get her blood sugar under control (her A1c has gone from 8.7 to 5.6!) and to manage her new dietary needs. When I finally realized what God was doing, I was speechless.
And I continue to be awed by His faithfulness!
Mom has been living with us for more than 14 months now, and while she is still unable to live independently, in many ways, her health is better than it was before she got so sick. I don't take credit for any of it. God gets ALL the glory! He has done an amazing work, not only in her, but in ME, over the course of this "adventure." And while I still feel the book tugging at my heart (and I know I need to start writing again), I have absolute peace that it WILL be done. God's purposes always prevail, and His promises are true. I know that my book will be finished and published, in His timing, because, during this most difficult season, when I was thrown more lemons than I could hold, God was gently turning them into the sweetest lemonade!
And even when I was not actively writing, my story was still being written by His Mighty Hand.
❤️ Be encouraged today:
Whatever you are walking through -- no matter how difficult or how contrary to your dreams -- HE IS ABLE. Nothing is impossible for our God!
🙌🏼"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." -- Romans 8:28 HCSB
Delusions of grandeur? -- 5 December 2016
Mark 10:35-45 NLT --"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him.
“Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”
“What is your request?” he asked.
They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”
But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”
“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”
Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”
When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To be perfectly honest, the first part of this passage used to irk me.
I was completely shocked by the audacity of these two brothers asking Jesus for such a thing! I mean, who did they think they were?? I could relate to the other ten disciples' indignation toward them. After all, they didn't deserve anything more than the rest of Jesus' followers. Talk about having delusions of grandeur!
I suppose we all know someone like that... people who don't know their place, or who act like they're owed more than they deserve. Entitlement is not an attractive quality in anyone, much less a follower of Christ! No doubt there are many who call themselves "Christian," who believe that God owes them something simply for choosing to follow Him. And they don't seem to have any reservations about making those expectations known. They want what (they think) is owed them, and they exhibit no shame while listing their demands. Unbelievable, right?
Such behavior is particularly loathsome to someone who has always felt "less than." When you have spent most of your life feeling rejected or misunderstood, it's hard to fathom the kind of ego displayed here by James and John. If you're anything like me, you've probably spent much of your life questioning how and why God would ever use someone like you. The thought of asking Jesus for something so incredibly self-serving offends you to your very core. At least, that's how I felt. I've always believed that you shouldn't expect more than you deserve. But now I wonder if we are any better off than those who do? Reading the 10th chapter of Mark, I noticed something I hadn't before... Immediately following the story of James' and John's brazen request, is the story of Jesus healing the blind beggar named Bartimaeus:
Mark 10: 46-52 NLT -- Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”
Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.
Why, do you suppose, Jesus asked Bartimaeus that question (see verse 51)?
Was it because He didn't already know the blind man's needs?
Of course He knew!
He simply wanted to test Bartimaeus' faith by asking him to speak his request aloud. You see, it's believed that Bartimaeus was not born blind, but had become blind at some point during his life. Traditionally, most people regarded such misfortunes as the result of a curse or punishment by God. Bartimaeus certainly would have felt shame and embarrassment by his affliction, and it's evident he was already an outcast to society. Not only was he forced to beg by the roadside, but his blindness didn't seem to garner much sympathy among his peers, either. When Bartimaeus first cried out to Jesus, the crowd essentially told him to shut up! So, while he might have seemed bold for shouting to Jesus for help, Bartimaeus' determination was truly tested when Jesus asked him this question: “What do you want me to do for you?” To publicly voice his request for healing might have sounded incredibly presumptuous to those standing nearby. Certainly, Bartimaeus understood this, and in that moment, he was probably feeling all of the doubts and uncertainties borne of his affliction. If he believed, deep down, that God had cursed him with blindness as some deserved punishment for sin, then who was he to ask for that curse to be broken? Jesus' question sounds harmless and unassuming to us today, but it likely produced a profound crisis of faith for blind Bartimaeus. Nevertheless, because he found the courage to push past his self-effacing insecurities, and boldly ask for God's mercy and grace, Bartimaeus was instantly healed!
As I re-read this passage with new understanding, I began to wonder if my previous offense had been misplaced. I'm not saying that James and John were right to make such bold assumptions, but perhaps their immodest proposal wasn't as bad as I'd first thought. With absolute clarity, Jesus pointed out the problems with their request. And while their motives were out of line, there was no real harm done by their asking. This begs the question:
Which is the bigger failure -- Asking God, boldly, for something we don't deserve, or refusing to ask because we're too focused on our unworthiness?
The reality is, none of us deserve anything good. Indeed, we should thank God we don't get what we actually "deserve!" James and John received a much-needed ego-check, but it wasn't like Jesus lambasted them for their mistake. Rather, He turned their self-seeking demands into an enlightening teachable lesson in humility. Oh, sure, the other disciples were offended, but so what? Just as insecurity shouldn't hinder our prayers, neither can we let the opinions of others dictate our faith.
So, I guess the real lesson here is two-fold:
1) When we petition God for something, we should first check our motives and always remain surrendered to His will.
2) We should never be afraid to ask God for anything!
If our request is out of line, or falls outside of His will, He will let us know. But if we never ask, we might just miss out on the miraculous answer to our prayers!
And even as I type this, I'm suddenly reminded of James 4:2b-3 NLT:
Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
Maybe we should stop being so concerned with the audacity of our prayers...
It may be that our biggest mistake is failing to believe God for more than we ask.
What do you want Jesus to do for you today?
What's a Food Addict???
If I told you how often I've been asked that question, you might not believe me. Then again, maybe you would... Based on the number of times that option was selected in my research survey (see button-link in the top, right-hand column), it's pretty clear that most people don't consider this struggle an addiction. That's okay; for most of my life, I didn't, either.
So, I'll admit: I was kind of a goody-two-shoes...
I make no apologies for this fact; I always figured it was my life to live and it was nobody's business what choices I made. I never felt the need to compromise my convictions to gain approval by my peers. Besides, I had other motives for my supposed piety: Like many families, addictions run through my family line like a polluted river, threatening to poison -- and occasionally succeeding in destroying -- the purpose and potentials of those who fall prey to their lure. Knowing this, I made the decision, early on, not to become another statistic. Admittedly, even though I was a Christian, my principles were not established solely on faith, but in PRIDE. I believed I could avoid the pitfalls of addiction simply by making wiser choices than some of my family and friends. Unfortunately, in my arrogance, I missed the point, entirely.
As I've mentioned before, my unhealthy relationship with food and dieting began when I was ~12 years of age, and nobody had a clue because I knew how to conceal. I believed that acknowledging my struggle with overeating would be an admission of weakness, and doing so would increase my vulnerability to even greater rejection than I already felt. So, rather than admit I was hurting inside, I chose to "self-medicate" with things that made me feel happy -- cookies, ice cream, potato chips -- if only temporarily. When I was eating my "happy foods," I could forget that I had very few friends, or that my clothes didn't fit right, or how I always felt awkward, unwanted, and out of place. My overeating and secret snacking were more than mere gluttony; there was emotional significance to every food choice I made.
So many addictions begin this way... as a means of self-preservation and a desire to find a place of belonging. Not every addict is a victim of abuse, rejection, or neglect but every addict -- regardless of the object or substance of their addiction -- is trying to fill a God-sized void inside them. Self-soothing with substances or behaviors is a learned response, born out of a belief that this is our only option. Complicating this struggle is an innate sense of pride, which demands we try to solve this (whatever "this" is) on our own. Most addicts won't (or don't) ask for help until they are truly desperate, faced with the consequences of a brutal reality that's quickly closing in.
I spent 26 years nursing the wounds of my heart with food. I ate when I was angry, sad, lonely, or scared. Food was my go-to when I needed relief from stress or a quick, emotional pick-me-up. And when my eating threatened to catch up with me, I would employ punitive exercise-bulimia (spending hours at the gym working off the food I'd binged on the night before) or restrictive fasting, sometimes going days without real nourishment to make up for my "eating indiscretions." On some level, I knew my means of coping wasn't healthy, but again, I was too PROUD to admit I needed help. After all, I was supposed to be a strong, confident woman who could do anything, right? This had been true in other areas of my life; As long as I worked hard enough, I could achieve any goal on which I set my sights. So why was this such a struggle? It was only FOOD! It wasn't like I was doing something illegal or immoral...... right?? (Right?) Wrong.
Eventually, my unhealthy food behaviors began to catch up with me. As is true in most forms of addiction, the very thing I had sought to control now began to control me. I was forced to admit that I was no longer calling the shots. The old tricks I'd used when I was younger -- to reign in my eating -- were no longer working. Now, a mounting frustration further fueled my self-destructive behaviors. No longer was food a mere option for "self-soothing," Now, I found myself driven to eat, compelled by the pressures of this life and intense cravings that went beyond simple lust or desire. My ballooning weight and multiplying health issues further reflected my loss of self-control. I was furious with myself; how could I let things get so messed up? And that anger drove me to eat even more! Self-loathing and fear, that I might never escape this prison of my invention, added to my misery. My so-called "innocent" struggle was quickly evolving into a self-fulfilling prophecy: The more I ate, the more miserable I became, and the more miserable I felt, the more I turned to food.
I often prayed to God, begging Him to help me, but I never really believed He cared enough to help. Deep down, I figured He was fed up and disgusted with me, too. In brief moments of frustrated, foolish pride, I would attempt to justify myself to Him: It wasn't my fault I was this way! What more was I supposed to do?! When that didn't work, I would haughtily boast, "At least I'm not a drug addict or something!"
But conviction brought me to my knees when I heard God reply,
"Oh, you're an addict alright; and FOOD is your drug of choice."
Oh, how I regret those contemptuous words! I'm ashamed, even now; I was blinded by my own foolish pride and a selfish demand for validation. I didn't understand what more I needed to do, or why everything I did was never enough.
But here's the thing:That's not how grace works. We cannot accept help -- even God's help -- as long as we are still trying to justify ourselves. And we won't earnestly seek help until we see ourselves honestly, as we truly are. No pride. No comparisons. No excuses.
It doesn't matter what we've endured, how we've been wronged, or how we compare to anyone else; we are all broken inside.
In short, nothing can prevent us from receiving His grace... except us.
Understanding that I was no different -- no better -- than anyone who struggles with other forms of addiction was extremely humbling, but it also brought me tremendous clarity and new insight to my own struggle. Admitting what I was didn't break me down; it was the first step up out of the mess I'd made. I now understood: this is an addiction because it's a dependency upon something -- other than God -- to heal the brokenness, and to fill the void, inside us. Calling this struggle an addiction is not a cop-out nor an excuse; it's simply "calling a spade, a spade." It is an admission of truth.
You see, "addiction" is not a judgment of character nor an indicator of moral deficiency in a few, pitiful souls... The fact is, we are ALL "morally deficient." Rather, addiction is the unintentional result of self-justifying pride, combined with our poor attempts at self-preservation or protection. Anyone can become an addict and doing so need not involve illegal activities. It doesn't matter if the object of your addiction is traded in back alleys or found at the local supermarket; in the end, all addictions lead to death.
I was a food addict, and I have great respect for those who have overcome any form of addiction -- alcohol, heroin, meth, cigarettes, gambling, shopping, sex, pornography, cocaine, cutting/self-harm, etc., and food -- indeed, I am proud to call many of them friends. I believe every success story is a victory for us all because everyone struggles with something.
Each of us have an area of weakness -- a place where we lick our wounds of unresolved anger, bitterness, and disappointment -- that we try to resolve on our own. And if we're not careful, pride will sneak in setting the trap of addiction. If we think, "I've got this; I don't need any help," we're sure to continue in the struggle until it eventually overwhelms or (sometimes) destroys us.
Thankfully, there is another option. When we are willing to see things as they really are, and humble ourselves enough to receive the help that's offered: By the grace of Jesus Christ, we can break free. When we allow God to heal our hearts -- removing the source of our self-destructive addictions -- then we will find real freedom.
When I surrendered my self-sufficient pride, God offered me the Solution for escape.
Since my last post here, I have seen an amazing move of God in my ministry. Apparently, I did the right thing by trusting God and exposing such an intimate part of my past in this very public forum. The response has been overwhelming and more than a little humbling.
I have been writing my book, and leading a class based on that book, for a number of years, but there has been a tangible shift. God is up to something new. I'm reminded of the Scripture He dropped in my heart on January 1st of last year:
"But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do!
For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!"
-- Isaiah 43:18-19 TLB (The Living Bible)
In a sense, I believe God is saying, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"
All of the work He's done in me... 130 pounds lost, healing of my heart, favor and influence in my ministry... is nothing compared to what's coming next!
At the start of this new year (2016), I began reading a daily devotional from Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest," and God began dealing with me about what is coming... On day four of this 30-day devotional, I read:
**"Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ.
The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction,
not simply that we should do something for Him.
We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles.
Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?"
What does this mean?
That even "good things" -- honorable things, selfless things -- can get in the way of my calling, and can hinder me from being obedient to what God has asked me to do. If I am serving in any area, against the will of God -- no matter how needed I may be -- I will not be fruitful, nor will that area of ministry thrive.
I have to keep in mind: God sees the bigger picture. He holds my tomorrows and He knows what I need most. Everything He has asked of me is meant to bless someone else. Who am I to keep them waiting?
As long as I remain obedient to God's call on my life, it doesn't matter what I am forced to sacrifice now; It could never compete with the joy of what's next.
** From "My Utmost for His Highest, 30-Day Edition." Discovery House Publishers, www.utmost.org -- (available on YouVersion Bible app).
My food issues began around the age of 12.
I was a skinny kid; until the onset of puberty, I never worried about my weight or how much I ate. Then, around the start of 6th grade, I discovered I had grown taller than most of my classmates. Growing so quickly left me feeling awkward and clumsy. Adding to my grief was the seemingly sudden change in my reflection. My thighs were becoming noticeably heavier and I seemed to have “baby fat” where I’d never had it as a baby! I felt disproportionately larger and somewhat chunkier than most of my friends, and this perception filled me with self-conscious apprehension. I decided to do something -- whatever it took -- to change my circumstances. Late one night, I snuck out of my bedroom and took a small booklet from my mother’s purse. The title boasted, “Thin Thighs In Thirty Days!” I went back to my bedroom and proceeded to do each listed exercise, every single night, for the next two years.
What began so innocently -- as a reasonable desire to control my weight and be accepted by my peers -- quickly took on a life of its own. There was a war being waged, in my mind, between my growing lust for food, and my fear of gaining weight. I was a walking contradiction in terms. Obesity seemed to be a generational curse in my family. The possibility, that I might get fat, terrified me, yet that very same fear was simultaneously driving me to eat. Due to some painful events in my childhood, a spirit of rejection had tormented me for some time. Now, however, that rejection emanated from within. I felt constantly out of place, and uncomfortable in my own skin. Crippling insecurity began to tear at my heart even as I tugged at my clothes.
My parents had no idea of what I was going through or that I was so unhappy. My circle of friends had shrunk, considerably, and I often bore the brunt of social exclusion and bullying by my peers. However twisted it might seem, in my mind, the weight gain and my ostracism were clearly related. I resolved to work even harder to lose weight.
In spite of my fears, my compulsion to eat grew stronger. Emotional eating became a big issue for me as I struggled to deal with adolescent angst. I began seeking solace in copious amounts of snack foods during lonely afternoons. Scarfing down three or four ice cream sandwiches -- and anything else I could find to eat -- often led to a bellyache, followed by verbal self-flagellation. How could I be so stupid? What was wrong with me?? Did I want to get fat?! Frustrated by my obvious lack of self-control, I would mentally berate myself while devising ways to “undo” the damage I had done with my binge. Often, as punishment, I would sentence myself to a day without food and an extra 100 crunches. A pendulum of extreme food behaviors was set in motion, and unfortunately, this vicious cycle continued for several years, thereafter.
I was a late bloomer, and my family’s move to a new school district just happened to coincide with my “outer evolution.” I felt accepted at this school, and I enjoyed the friendly attention of my new classmates, but in my mind, this warm reception further fueled my destructive thinking. Clearly, a favorable appearance was the secret to acceptance. Therefore, I should do whatever I could to present an attractive mien. Thus began my bitter, love-hate relationship with mirrors.
It’s terribly ironic, and somewhat laughable (now), but some of my classmates actually thought I was vain. They completely misread, and harshly misjudged, my crippling self-consciousness as nothing more than shallow vanity. It’s true; I was checking my appearance in the bathroom, between every class, but it wasn’t because I thought I was beautiful. In truth, I was struggling to find anything to like.
I realize now, I was indeed, self-centered... in the way that a bullseye is the center of an archer’s target. No minute imperfection escaped my notice, but it was my weight that remained my greatest source of angst. Throughout high school and college, I managed to keep my weight in check by skipping meals, often for days at a time. Inevitably, these starve-marathons were bookended by an emotional eating binge, thus the pendulum continued to swing...
It wasn’t until two years into writing this book, that I realized the significance of my early food behaviors : I had developed an eating disorder. I’d never considered such a thing because eating disorders (gasp!) were the nightmarish stuff of after-school specials. They didn’t happen in normal, everyday life, did they? Truthfully, I never reached full-blown anorexia -- three days without food was my max -- and my near-phobic response to throwing up meant bulimia was out of the question. Nevertheless, I now understand the subversive nature of my thought processes. The fear of gaining weight, with an underlying fixation on food, is the driving force behind most eating disorders. My intense desire to control my eating had nearly consumed me! Were others suffering silently, as I once had?
Long story, somewhat shortened: I lost the battle, but won the war.
You see, an unrecognized and untreated eating disorder has one of three outcomes:
A) It either kills you, or B) It mutates into the very thing you feared the most (gluttony and obesity) or (more rarely) C) It’s cleansed from your life through an intense journey of internal healing.
Because I could not maintain my chaotic food behaviors, long-term, my eating disorder gave way to compulsive eating and eventually, morbid obesity. By the time God gave me the dream for this book, I weighed close to 320 pounds. This devastating downfall didn’t happen overnight, and I never stopped fighting the descent. Nevertheless, I found myself at the bottom of this pit, deeply enslaved to food.
Like most addicts, I had to hit rock bottom before I chose to look up for help. I spent almost 30 years trying to fix myself, and overcome my food issues using the world’s advice. The result was utter failure.
Surrendering my struggle to God is where I found my freedom. To date, I have lost approximately 130 pounds and I have been set free from that torment of “insecurity.” My identity and self-worth are no longer tied to my reflection or a number on the scale, but is found in Christ, alone. Trusting the Lord with my pain, and obediently following His direction for my journey, has set my course for absolute freedom and healingfrom the inside, out.**