I’ve learned a lot in the last two and a half years. My beliefs about myself have been transformed by Truth. I thought I’d blown through all my issues and could now start working from this point forward to be the person God created me to be. I didn’t realize that he’d saved a really momentous transformation for a bit later in the game.
I know better now than to think that I’ll ever be “done” working through layers of damage to my soul. It’s not a tragedy though. It’s actually a blessing to get older and realize that the more I know, the less I know. And the less I need to know. It’s a relief to be able to admit that a huge chunk of life is a mystery. It means that I am not responsible for it in any way, and I’m not responsible for knowing the answer. It’s really and truly ok to be unsure about things.
So God was saving up a momentous change for me. I don’t know why, but it probably has something to do with me not being ready for this momentous change when I first started delving into my issues. I know that right now I sure do feel ready to take this on. I am chomping at the bit! I have been at my wit’s end with it. I have gotten angry and frustrated and cried and shouted for help with this issue.
But I didn’t really know what the issue was. I had misidentified it. What is happening to me right now is that I am learning to identify my issue properly. I had always thought that I just liked food too much and that was why I struggle with my weight. I lose weight, then gain it right back. Rinse, repeat. Over the years I have lost weight a bunch of times. And gained it a bunch of times. I just figured I had no self-control.
But I have found out differently. I found out that I have been feeding an emotional hunger with the wrong kind of food. My issue isn’t with food, it is with a behavior that I have developed to cope with overwhelming emotions or unmet needs in my life.
Why are my emotions overwhelming? I think it is because 1) I am a very emotional person, and 2) my large emotions were not embraced by my alcoholic family when I was a child. I learned that my emotions were not safe because they caused chaos and anger to come at me from my mother and father. I have now discovered that consequently, whenever an emotion comes up, I have a fear response to the emotion, whatever it is. I try to shut down the emotion, stuffing it down with compulsive eating. Or, I can’t stuff it and I fall apart because of the sense of impending doom I get that I have always mistaken for the actual emotion. I then feel guilt and shame as a result of falling apart and pushing my family away. So I stuff those feelings down with food too.
In fact, somewhere along the line I learned to cope with every feeling and every problem by feeding it food. That doesn’t solve any problems per se, but it does distract me from the feeling for the time being. First because the food (hopefully) tastes good, and then because I feel ill from eating when I am not physically hungry.
Dieting also provides a distraction from my problems, so it will suffice from time to time when I am overly appalled with my appearance. But since food is not my problem, simply losing weight doesn’t end the problem. As soon as I decide I am “done” dieting, then once again I begin to distract myself with eating behaviors. Or if my problems are too big for dieting to distract me, I go right back to the eating. I remember when I was a smoker, I never had any problem with weight because I could just smoke instead of eat.
What I have learned is that food is not my enemy. Neither, however, is it my savior. No, food is just neutral. When I find myself going for food even though I am not hungry, I have realized that I have to stop and ask myself if I am actually physically hungry or not. Then I must think about what my true hunger is, and how to feed it what it needs. If I am lonely, I should try to connect with someone. If I am feeling guilty, I should try to find the source of that and determine if the guilt is justified or, more likely, imagined. If I am worried about something, I should stop and pray.
Today I couldn’t figure out what in the world was bothering me. I kept wanting to eat when I was not hungry. So I am learning to just sit with my “not knowing”, because the one thing I do know is that food will not solve whatever it is that is causing me trouble. I can just sit with God’s spirit and relax. I know that even if I do give in to emotional eating sometimes, I will never again find myself robotically eating without even understanding why. I know now that my eating behavior is a coping mechanism for emotional distress or an unmet need in my life. Will this help me lose weight permanently? That remains to be seen. I am hopeful.
I didn’t really talk about why in the world I would have unmet needs in my life. Tomorrow.