The process of God drawing me to Himself is lifelong. This is the essence of my journey.
It includes mountains and valleys, highs and lows, joys and sadness, victories and failures — but through it all, God keeps drawing me, using whatever it takes to fix my heart on Him.
My relationship with food has been a rocky one, full of contradictions. I have been told by doctors to lose weight and to gain it. I’ve loved eating and I’ve hated the thought of food. At one point of my life I downed a burger and fries without a thought and at another time I squashed a burrito from Taco Bell in its unopened wrapper so it would appear eaten.
But through it all God has been faithful. I look back at what was one time so painful and confusing and I can say, “It is good for me that I was afflicted” because God is good and is shaping the course of my life in ways I could never plan but are always best (Psalm 119:71).
The first time I remember consciously thinking about what I ate was when I was ten, because that was when I first thought of myself as overweight. I had always been a chunky girl, the pudgiest baby of three girl babies, the one with the largest appetite who would much rather be curled up reading a book than running around outside. Weight didn’t become a personal issue until other kids started teasing me and even a few adults made some offhand remarks about being large for my age or passing down their “heavy” hand-me-downs.For a pre-teen girl wanting so much to “fit in” and be liked, it was painful to think that my size distinguished me from other kids my age. Feeling inadequate to join in on sports was difficult.
Throughout my early teens, I would try every once in a while — usually after an embarrassing doctor’s check-up — to eat less, but it wasn’t a major concern. I was busy enjoying life, in music, art, writing. And I loved mashed potatoes, fried chicken and grave too much to refuse a second helping.
When I was sixteen, I hit an all time high. I wasn’t growing any taller, but my portion sizes were growing larger. And I felt it too. I felt uncomfortable in my own body, lethargic, and unmotivated. That summer, I went to a three-week music school. For those three weeks, I hate differently than I had my whole life. Very health meals were served and very little snacking in between. When I came home, I had lost five pounds.
That was the springboard for motivation. I had never in my life lost weight before.
I determined to keep it up. I went to the library and checked out as many nutrition books as I could carry. I started reducing my portions, limiting snacks, and eating more veggies. I even started exercising — beginning with a jump rope in the basement where no one could see.
The weight began to come off. Healthy decisions were becoming healthy habits. Like eating breakfast. For my first sixteen years, I never ate breakfast. Instead I would drink juice in the early morning and around 9 or 10 raid the snack cupboards — sometimes eating an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers with some cheese or three NutriGrain bars at a time. But now, breakfast was my favorite meal. I discovered foods and flavors I loved — oats, bananas, Kashi cereal.
It was a natural transition that the more interested and involved I got into healthy eating, the more time I spent in the kitchen. I found that the best way to know what I was eating was to make it myself. A love grew for cooking and baking — it became an exciting challenge to find alternatives to oil, butter, and sugar.
The victories weren’t void of struggles. At times, it felt like I was unable to curb my appetite and the scale would never read a lower number. One day, I went on an all day fast, just wanting for one day to not think about food. Well, right about dinner time, I couldn’t keep my mind off of food. While everyone else was eating, I escaped up to my room. I brought my Bible, wanting to focus my mind elsewhere. The Lord led me to Psalm 73 and immediately my heart melted.
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.”
My thoughts wandered to my family eating around the table together, my sisters who could enjoy food without a thought of gaining weight. Why was I the weak one? Why did eating have to be such a struggle?
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
These verses became my life verses, reminding me of what is most important, of what my greater purpose is. I didn’t need to fill myself with food to be happy, I needed to be filled with Jesus. He was my portion when my soul was hungry, my strength when my flesh was weak. Only staying near to Him would I be able to continue on.
After this, the weight continued to come off, but my relationship with God had been strengthened and taken to a deeper level of trust and dependence on Him. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand enough about healthy weight loss to know when enough was enough. It was so exciting to be getting thinner, to be fitting into smaller and smaller sizes that I didn’t want to stop.
I am not exactly sure at what point my weight loss turned into an unhealthy obsession. After losing 45 pounds in about six months, control over my weight, calories, and exercise became an all-consuming concern. I kept a meticulous food journal of every calorie that went into my mouth — right down to “three pretzels” and “1 teaspoon of sugar-free jam” as a “snack.” Every day became a challenge to eat less than the day before, to delay my hunger signals a little longer and to eliminate all fat and sugar from my diet. My weight kept dropping and I stepped on the scale at least once a day to make sure. It was around this point that my goal shifted from being healthy to being skinny.
But I wasn’t happy. Numbers — calories, pounds, and clothing sizes — haunted me. I was so fearful of eating anything that would cause me to lose control forever. Anything “fatty” — salad dressing, nut butter, butter, ice cream — was banned. When my family would go out to eat, I usually would order a dressing-less side salad and two sides of veggies. If they came pre-buttered, they were largely untouched.
After I had dropped over 50 pounds, my parents and sisters began to express concern. My hair was thinning considerably, my skin was pale and twice I had fainted in the doctor’s office. My adamant refusal to change my eating habits only reinforced that there was a problem. So then came the doctor’s appointments, the meeting with a dietitian, the counseling sessions. I kicked and screamed the whole way, determined not to let go of my “self-control”. What I didn’t realize was that it had control of me. I was angry, weak, and weary.
Around this time, I prepared a lesson on Beauty for our girls Bible study group. I think it was the way of my hungry soul reaching out to God much like it had that day when I was fasting. Again my flesh and my heart were failing and I was drawing near to God (or rather, He was drawing me to Himself). I immersed myself in what God said about me — – I am in God’s image, created with purpose, He designed and knows my shape and size, and He pursues a relationship with me. My body is important, testifying of God’s love for His creation, but it is not all there is. What I look like does not define me. As a child of God, but true reflection is seen when I look into the mirror of God’s Word and hear what my Heavenly Father says about me.
Gaining back some of the weight I had worked so hard to shed was very difficult. Reintroducing fats into my diet was so hard. Breaking up with the scale was a major hurdle. But now I was drawing on Christ’s strength to be my portion and restore me back to health.
So where am I now? Still “pressing on,” but so grateful for the journey. I love eating and cooking healthy foods because of the way it nourishes and fuels my body to run races, carry babies, hike mountains, canoe rivers, and be a strong laborer in God’s kingdom. Don’t even think about taking away my sunflower buttah! I am studying toward a Dietetics major with the goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian that will help people like me come to peace with food. My dream is to work with eating disorders, helping girls see that they are so much more than a number on a scale and food can be enjoyed and not feared.
I am continually learning that the way to beauty is one of total surrender — soul, mind, and body, ideals, hopes, disappointments, frustrations — all of me committed wholly to God’s restoration of beauty within me.
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.