It’s time for me to be transparent with you guys, lest you should mistakenly think that food and I have always been the best of pals.
Quite the contrary, there have been some dark days in my life when it comes to my relationship with food.
I started college as a happy 18-year-old and blissfully set about making new friends, spreading my wings, and oh yeah, gaining the fabled “freshman fifteen” like so many before me. I had already formed some bad eating habits in high school (like my regular practice of downing 4 bowls of Raisin Bran Crunch after an evening shift working at the Belgian Waffle & Pancake House… where, by the way, we were allowed to have as much free toast and as many free soft drinks as we wanted. You can imagine how great that was for my waistline!) Anyway, me and my complete lack of self-control thought the Harding cafeteria, with its unlimited supply of Count Chocula and Chocolate Milk, was pretty much the equivalent of Disneyland.
I developed a nice little moon face any 2-year-old would be proud of and went on my merry way. It wasn’t til the end of that school year that I started to feel a little uncomfortable, realizing that many of my favorite outfits didn’t fit me so well anymore. Sure, I’d noticed the progression and made minuscule efforts to correct the problem. But you can’t stop a freight train with a fly swatter. The real wake-up call came when Facebook hit the big-time (my freshman year!) and pictures of me started popping up more often than I was used to seeing them. I was officially NOT HAPPY with the girl looking back at me from those photos.
It was with this mindset that I entered into a very emotionally dark year, my Sophmore year. I had experienced a few major fall-outs with close friends over the summer and was feeling flat-out rotten about myself. I decided that the way to recapture my happiness would be to get serious about losing the weight I had gained. “Then,” I reasoned, “I’ll feel good about myself again.” I won’t go into the details of the rituals and rules I created for myself, but I’ll tell you that as I grew thinner and thinner, the lies in my head grew louder and stronger. Attention from others (especially about my physical appearance) began to mean more to me than it had in the past. Questions from concerned friends became a twisted sort of reward to my warped brain. My relationships with friends (and with the Lord) slowly dwindled into non-existence, since it was impossible to invest in them when I had so much meal-planning, calorie-counting, and exercising to do. (Besides, more often than not, they were getting together to eat and I didn’t want all the questions about why I wasn’t joining in! I was very secretive about the way I was restricting myself, wanting others to believe my trim figure came effortlessly. Oh, vanity is such a destroyer!)
You can imagine that very quickly my life began to feel like a prison. I had created a cage of rules and restrictions and forced myself to live within them. My desperate response to the caged feeling was to completely rebel against my diet rules and go in the opposite direction. I tried to keep this tendency in check (“just cheat once a month” or “on holidays” etc) but I was out of control. Addicted to the feeling of being thin and the perceived superiority it gave me, yet addicted to the “forbidden fruit” that was all food.
It was a combination of factors that led to the healing of my mind, and eventually the changes in my behavior. Seeing a counselor at my school, marrying my husband, and lots of unconditional love and earnest prayers from those dear to me. And though each of these things had remarkable effects on my damaged thought processes, it seemed the same food demons would rear their ugly heads every time life threw me a curve ball over the next few years. The struggle became especially intense again when I started teaching high school Spanish. I loved my students dearly, but felt an enormous amount of anxiety being up in front of a classroom every day. Along came food to be my comfort once again, though the ensuing guilt from over-doing it was ever present. This was not freedom. Yet. But thankfully, the truth had taken root in my heart. And it was slowly edging out the lies. And even on days where my behavior didn’t line up with my new convictions, I knew enough not to give up.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I feel like it explains why this little food blog has become such a passion of mine!
I stand here, in September of 2013, on the other side of that ferocious food battle. And I stand here, victorious. I stand here, free!
I’ve come to a point where I can joyfully say that food is no longer a source of struggle for me. No longer a source of anxiety. No longer a threat. No longer a security blanket. No longer a compulsion. No longer a cage.
Food today is a source of joy. A symbol of celebration. A gift I can give others. A reason for fellowship. An outlet for creativity. A blessing!
And what drives me to write this blog, to make appetizing photos, to share my recipes, and to reach new people… is the realization that after all those dark days, there is a place of delicious freedom. I truly believe you CAN “have it all” when it comes to food! You can make pretty food without it tasting bad. You can eat tasty food without it being expensive. You can eat sweets and not get fat. And I’m on a mission to share that AWESOME news with the world!
I’m certain I’m not the only one who has experienced this struggle. And I hope that if you are reading this post today from a place of hurt, frustration, or failure… you will use these words as gentle encouragement directed right at you. Where you are right now is not where you will be forever. Overcoming a difficult demon is never without its share of work, time, and toil… but you are well-equipped by the One who made you to live this life and live it abundantly.
I’d love to hear from you if you have a comment or a similar experience to share! Uplifting words for the battle-weary who might be reading are also welcome in the comments section. Join my mission and help me take food back out of the camp of the Enemy, and return it to the way God intended it. As a gift for celebration, creativity, and fellowship.
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