I love food. I love the way that it smells. I love the way that it tastes. I love the feeling of getting your hands sticky with dough, too sticky to answer the phone or text or scroll. I love the feeling of seeing people gathered around the table eating and communing. I love food…but I hate the way that it makes me feel.
I haven’t always had this love-hate relationship with food, I used to eat without thought and without care. But somewhere along the way something in my brain switched and created waves of guilt and shame that would wash over me every time I perceived myself to be overindulging. It happened when I would eat a brownie before bed, and when I would eat a little too much at lunch. The thing is that I don’t know what I was using as a measure to determine what was “too much” or where I got the idea that I had to feel guilty about eating things that tasted good.
Somewhere along the line the contentment and joy that accompanied food were replaced with guilt and shame. However, this didn’t happen all at once. There’s not a day on the calendar that I can look back on and say “That was that day I started to hate myself after I ate”. It was more of a slow fade…a slow brainwashing if you will. It snuck up on me and while I was still trying to comprehend where it came from, the shameful feelings rooted down themselves deep in my heart and in my mind. Making their home in the place where my love of all things delicious once lived.
The funny thing though is that those feelings of shame, guilt, and self-hatred never seemed to fully kick out my love of food. Instead, they used that as one of their weapons, tempting me with tantalizing dishes and then dousing me in buckets of shame after I had eaten. And this is how unhealthy cycles and relationships are built. And this is how I entered into a verbally abusive relationship with myself.
I told myself that maybe I shouldn’t eat that much food, maybe put a little back so that it doesn’t end up on your hips. Did I really need to eat that much food? Don’t eat that cookie…well, now that you have it’s going to be the reason your pants are tighter this week than last week. These thoughts just kept waltzing through the door or my brain and moving into the precious retail space in my head. Knocking over and throwing out anything positively related to food and nutrition until all that was left were these harbingers of hatred. And so the unwanted dislike of food and the abusive self-talk intensified.
Until one day I looked at myself dead in the eye in the mirror and said: “Enough is enough!” I was not going to let something as simple as a cookie ruin my day, nor was I going to let something as inconsequential as eating a little less healthy that day run me into a spiral of negative self-talk. I was not going to let myself be ruled by the voices and thoughts in my head that told me that everything about me was wrong. I was not going to let them win.
Now I’d like to say that it was as easy as that and that from that moment I’ve enjoyed food guilt-free. I’d like to tell you that but I can’t. It’s a hard journey back to loving food, and one that I’ll probably be on for most of my life. But it has gotten easier since that day in the mirror last year. There are now more days than not where I can eat without feeling the sneaky, slimy thoughts of shame come sliding into my brain. What helped me wash off of the guilt I felt after eating was to completely submerge myself in the love and Word of God. When I turned my cravings for food (which almost always would lead to feelings of defeat and abusive self-talk) to cravings for God (which always leads to love and acceptance) I found freedom from the guilt of eating. When our cravings are in the wrong spot, that is when we begin to feel bad about ourselves; but when we are craving the right things, or Thing I should say, we are able to enjoy life to the fullest.
There are still days where I look at food and can feel the self-hate begin to creep in, and there are days when that self-hatred sneaks in through a window and camps out in my head for a while. But I no longer get hung up on these feelings. I take stock of them, I acknowledge them, and then tell them to get the heck out of my head because I am no longer a slave to them. I am a child of God, and as such, I am meant for so much more than the constant see-saw relationship between myself and food. I can now live in the freedom that comes from God, and that freedom extends right down to the pasta and cookies on the table.
Don’t let negative thoughts and feelings ruin the things that you love in life. Don’t let them steal your joy. I’ve often laughingly said in that all I want is to be “fat and happy”, but mostly happy. Happiness is the truest goal, and the only way to achieve that goal is by seeking the creator of happiness…by seeking God. Today don’t let yourself hate the food that you were made to love. Let yourself embrace the body that you God created specifically for you, and all that makes you, you. Cookies, cake, fries, and all.