This is a guest post by a friend of mine. Please know that I am ALWAYS interested in letting my voice be a Blog for YOUR voice. If you have something you want to share, please reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org!
I am a friend of Wendi’s. Some of you know me, but due to the nature of this topic and the content shared, I am writing anonymously today. It is my prayer that someone out there (even just one!) will be helped by me sharing my story.
Have you ever anticipated the holidays because of all the amazing food they involve, but at the same time dreaded the weight you knew you would gain, or the number of times you would feel too full and gross from over indulging in the feasting?
I have. In fact, just last Christmas, I gained 5 pounds in 10 days while visiting my family for the holiday.
Many of you will not be able to relate to this. Some of you will. A few of you feel full and gross as you’re reading this.
With Thanksgiving just a heartbeat away, I wanted to share my story in hopes of reaching someone out there who can relate to what you read here.
At least since my teens, I have struggled with my weight. My weight was constantly fluctuating and I could gain or lose 10 to 15 pounds pretty rapidly.
Having said that, I have tried dieting on and off and have never had any long lasting results. I have been able to maintain a fairly healthy body weight (though still heavier than I should have been) over the last few years, as I have been much more active. However, I've heard it said (and I believe it to be true) that being healthy is 80% what you eat and only 20% exercise. You can't out exercise what you're putting in your mouth. After a half marathon in the spring of 2013, I quit running and working out all together, until about early September.
At the end of October, I realized that I weighed within seven pounds of my heaviest (non-pregnant) weight ever! I started working out at the gym like a crazy person. I would either swim, run, do weights, or cycle at least five times a week, or I would feel like a failure. At that rate, I was seeing some results, but was getting (mentally and physically) exhausted. That's a tough pace to keep up and be a very good wife, mom, and friend at the same time.
It felt good to go home for Christmas and have people notice that I'd lost weight, etc... but it was CHRISTMAS, and I ended up gaining about five pounds in the ten days we were gone. I sort of lost my steam as the new year rolled in.
I have a good friend who had mentioned OA (Overeater's Anonymous) to me briefly in the past and that she had started going to meetings. I thought about it on and off over the months and in January, asked her a little more about it. As she told me what it was, and her experience with it, I became acutely aware that I Am a compulsive eater.
If I have pop (especially coke or vanilla coke) in my house, I will drink at least 2, and sometimes as many as 4 cans a day! If I have a bag of chocolate (anything), I will eat it in one or two days. If there is pizza, brownies and pop available at breakfast time, I will eat that instead of a healthy meal. If one of my kids wakes up in the night and needs to be settled, I will eat a handful of chocolate chips on the way to (and from) their room at 3 am! If there are brownies, fresh cookies, fresh bread, biscuits, donuts, etc in my house, I will not be able to just eat one. In hindsight, I realized that I had gotten to the place where feeling overfull, bloated, or just gross was happening multiple times a week and I thought it was normal.
I was also clearly using food as an emotional crutch. If I'd had an especially tough day with the kids, then nap time was time for me to "take the edge off" (often with a pop) and something sweet. Or if I got to buy groceries alone, I would get myself a drink and a sweet to celebrate, or if my husband was working late, I'd put the kids to bed, and then treat myself to some sort of snack while I enjoyed a movie or whatever alone. These treats also applied to feeling angry, sad, lonely or bored.
There would also be times where I would crave something salty, then need something sweet to go with it, then need something crunchy, or creamy, or savory… and before I knew it, I had traveled through the fridge and panty and had eaten some of a dozen different things and felt completely overstuffed. The craving and the desire to continue enjoying the taste sensation would overwhelm any logic or sane thinking and I would be caught in a trap of binging, even when I felt physically gross and didn’t want to continue eating.
Over the last six months I have greatly benefitted from the program of Overeaters Anonymous. You can visit their website here www.oa.org. It's not a "Christian" program, but in a lot of ways, it is the message of "salvation" when it comes to compulsive eating. They have 12 steps which are as follows. We:
- Admitted we were powerless over food — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God .
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God , praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Admitted having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps; we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Like I said, it's not a Christian program, but As a Christian, I have found that my belief in the One Higher Power, the Lord Jesus Christ, has made it very easy to see the truth in these steps and how He is the only one able to make any change in me.
These questions are a great way to see where you’re at with food.
I started to utilize these steps around the middle of February. My heart (that I didn't know was closed) really started to open at this time. OA does not tell you what to eat, but lets each person decide for themselves what their trigger foods are (foods that they are unable to eat in moderation) and what and how much they should be eating. They do suggest a 3-0-1 plan of eating. This means 3 meals a day, no snacks in between, 1 day at a time. I have found that I personally do better if I just don't eat anything between meals because once I start eating, my body thinks "well, now it's time to eat!" and I have a hard time reigning it in.
As I look back, I realize I was not at all aware of how much food I was eating. I was definitely a "grazer" between meals, and would sample lots of stuff while I was cooking or making the kids food. I would almost always have dessert, and I usually had some type of snack in the evening before bed.
March came. I was having success with the food plan and trying to cut out some things like pop, chocolate, and generally cut back on junk food as I followed my 3 meals a day. I was losing weight and seeing good results. But I was still emotionally tied to the food and would still slip and eat compulsively and struggle and question what I was doing wrong.
On March 27th, after losing yet another battle against my sugar addiction, I had a revelation from the Lord:
(I was floored with how clear He made this to me!)
Either I was going to continue to struggle and fail against my addiction, at the cost of true closeness with Him, OR I was going to give it (sugar) up completely to have the relationship I want with Him.
It was a crossroads.
I could only go one way.
I chose Him.
Just the fact that I was able to make that choice (even in my head, before it would play out in my physical body), is proof that this is from Him. I was both terrified and excited!
I did not give up sugar to lose weight, or for the health benefits. Neither of those were good enough reasons.
I honestly would rather "risk" my health (until something came up) and enjoy sweets, than give them up. I would rather be a little chubby and be able to enjoy sweets, rather than give them up. BUT, when I was shown that I would be choosing them over HIM - that was reason enough! The only way my weak, human self could fathom not having sugar ever again ... was because of the trade off.
As I thought about it, it was so simple. When presented with those two choices, there was only one option I wanted! By this time, I knew I had become comfortable, complacent and pretty stagnant spiritually, but the yearning to be closer to Him had grown sooooo strong! His offer of new found communion with Him, along with a Bible full of promises about His faithfulness was irresistible!
In the days immediately following this revelation, I would be overcome with moments of panic, with thoughts of "What!? I'm Never eating sugar again???" (By this point in my life, sugar and desserts were part of my personality, what people knew and expected from me!) But He is good. It totally felt right, even in the fear. I knew He would give me strength. "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
I started with a total ban on chocolate, cake, cookies, pastries, donuts, ice cream, candy, honey and syrup. (I included honey and syrup, because I had found that even if I was using them on super healthy foods, I was obsessing about them and not using them in moderation). Sweet things had to go. I slowly started weeding out foods that sugar was "sneaky" about hiding in.
This decision was immediately confirmed over and over in my heart and mind as He brought verses to me. I was so thankful. Ephesians 2:1-10 especially spoke to me in those early days.
Those first days were hard. I'll be honest. When I was around sugary things, I would have an extremely strong, physical reaction to them. My mouth would water (and almost ache) because I wanted it so badly. God proved Himself so faithful though, even when I was not. Around the beginning of May, I could definitely tell that the obsession had lifted and I felt much more free from the pull of these foods!
I have definitely had times of failure and feeling vulnerable, or where I question this decision. Am I really this bad off? Do I really need to be this strict and give it all up? Maybe I'm overreacting. I've lost a lot of weight, and I feel great. Maybe I could handle just a little. I started wanting to rationalize. Time and (painful) time again, it has been confirmed that I am and always will be a compulsive eater if I let myself go, and I need to live in a new way if I am to have freedom, I can't mess around with the food.
Some time in April, I had decided to give up flour for a few months as a trial thing. I suspected that I also wasn't able to handle "floury" foods (since even healthy pancakes, biscuits, muffins etc would leave me obsessing about them before the meal came when I got to eat them, and I wasn't eating them in moderation). When I was visiting a friend, I cheated and asked if she would make her skillet homemade biscuits for one of our meals. I seriously thought about them for the 24 hours previous, almost lost my mind while they were baking... and then proceeded to eat until they were gone at dinner. I not only felt super gross and full, but, (because I had been eating essentially no flour for the three weeks previous and then totally binged on it), my gut was torn up and within an hour it had gone straight through me. This made things crystal clear for me about flour.
Again, there was some serious pain at the thought of no more bread, rolls, croissants, pancakes, biscuits, etc, but I've found that even the smallest thing (one breaded chicken nugget) will leave me wanting more and obsessing about it. As weird as it is, I do know myself and that I can't have flour/baked stuff of any kind. I need to continue to rest in His leading and not worry about what others will think.
These are small sacrifices in the big picture, but they are sacrifices. I have come to see that the more I am sacrificing, the more I need Him. That is where I need to be. I need to "feel" the sacrifice. If I could somehow happily eat some sort of bread or pancakes, I would be content (and in a scary place because I would lose my dependence on Him). That tiny sense of loss keeps me close to Him. I now see it as a gift I've been given! People who can eat sweets or baked goods without a thought, don't have the opportunity like I have to be reminded so often how much I need Him and how great He is! =)
In June, I (nervously) went to my first OA meeting. It felt like home. Nowhere have I felt such love and acceptance and encouragement. I think it operates the way the Church should. I now attend a meeting every week.
Fast forward to now: I have been BLOWN AWAY by God's goodness and faithfulness and how He has worked in so many areas of my life simultaneously. I blunder along, but continue to reach for His hand and follow this new path and He just dumps on the blessings. About six months ago, I started waking up before anyone else, at 5:30 or 6:00 to sit in a comfy chair in the living room and greet the new day and spend quiet, alone time with the Lord before the day got started. How awesome that time has been.
The real message here is that it’s not about the food; God just chose to use that avenue in my life as a way to help me reach a place of surrender. I can clearly see that my journey with food addiction and finding victory over that has just opened up the doors to my life, to shed the light on other areas where I desperately need either deliverance, strength, or just a nudge to step out in faith and let myself be used in new ways.
In large and small ways He has enabled me to connect with so many people in the last couple months on a deeper level through my experiences with His grace and power. I find myself more easily “going deep” in conversations a lot faster than I ever would have before. Transparency resonates with people!
I have lost 30 pounds and I probably eat half as much food as I used to, BUT I only eat foods that I LOVE and enjoy every bite of it so much more than I ever have before!
There is no “once and for all cure”. I only find recovery as I take it one day at a time and follow His leading and use the 12 steps. In my own strength I CANNOT avoid eating sugar or flour for the rest of my life… I am not strong enough. He is strong and it is in His strength that I can take the steps each day to help me recover and live like I’ve never lived before.
This is not a “How To/A Diet/A Manual/A Do This, Don’t Do That”, it’s simply my story of how God has proved Himself so faithful to me in 2015.
* If you related to anything I said, please check out OA’s website and see how you can find support and recovery in your area. If you would like contact me, you can contact Wendi and she can put you in touch with me. I would love to encourage you in any way I can! There IS hope!