The Making of a Food Addict

I have no idea why one person evolves into a compulsive eater and the next one doesn’t. Yes, food was associated with comfort during my childhood, but isn’t that true for everyone? I was skinny as a kid, and my sister and I grew up back in the day when children still played outside for hours at a time, so I ran off every excess calorie. Even though there were certain dishes I loved (e.g., my grandma’s shrimp dip and lemon meringue pie), I rarely overate.

aWhen I was fourteen, my mother remarried and my safe little life spun out of control. We moved from Chicago to a rinky-dink town in rural Illinois. I was already painfully shy and immature, and the upheaval was excruciating. In the emotional whiplash, I discovered the consolation of food. I got a worker’s permit and an after-school job at Dairy Queen, where we were free to make our own sundaes, so you can imagine what sort of concoctions we kids came up with. After work, when my family had already retired for the night, I’d slip quietly into the apartment and fix a fried egg and bologna sandwich. At some point during my fifteenth year, food got a hook in me.

bBy the time I was 20, I had a baby and was in a disastrous marriage that would last for more than two decades. We were living in an old, ramshackle house; it was so cold at night that a leftover cup of coffee would freeze on the kitchen table. The house sat on a country road surrounded by cornfields. I was terribly isolated with virtually no friends, no phone, and no transportation. I was forbidden to visit my own family even though they lived just a few miles away. To top it off, I was unknowingly battling the initial stages of thyroid disease.

One day as my son napped in the next room, I sat down with a batch of chocolate chip cookies and I couldn’t stop. Sugar became my drug. The act of eating brought instant relief from the pain and hopelessness.

I began to look forward to these occasional moments alone with food. After the birth of my son, I’d lost every trace of baby weight in 30 days, so I always promised myself I’d have just a few cookies or just one Twinkie. But at some point during each binge—usually by cookie number three or Twinkie number two—the satisfaction would morph into compulsion. That little regulator inside a person that tells them they’ve had enough stopped functioning. I railroaded right over the voice of reason, trying to make the gratification last just one minute longer.

For the next few years, the binges were serious but sporadic. I held my addiction at bay until my mid-twenties . . .

bThat’s all I can muster for now. Laying my story “out there” is difficult—but worth it if it helps even one person. Understand that if you feel powerless against food, there’s hope. The path to healing is not an easy journey, but there’s hope and there’s freedom. See ya next time.

An Honest Look at Gluttony

The following is a repost of an article in preparation for several weeks of discussion about the topic of food addiction. Stay tuned for more about my journey into and out of food compulsion and about the freedom available to all of us through the One who knows our deepest secrets.

aMost Christians would agree that God has established boundaries for His children in many areas: entertainment, sex, relationships, finances, etc. Yet how many would agree that the same is true regarding food? We American Christians seem to believe that that’s the one area in which He deserves no jurisdiction—that we have free rein to eat what we want, whenever we want, as often as we want it. For anyone to suggest that He has given us guidelines is to suggest that we are “under the law.”

We’ve become so reckless and desensitized that we’ve made a habit of engaging in gluttony together. It’s one thing to recognize a hearty meal with friends as a gift from God, but it’s another to disregard all boundaries and then brag about it: If I eat one more bite you’re gonna have to roll me out of here. Are we those of whom it is written, “Their god is their belly”?

Far be it from me to heap condemnation on anyone. I only tackle this issue because I know that until we take a very honest look at it, we won’t begin to free ourselves from the hold that food has on so many of us. I speak from experience. For years, food was my heroin. I was as helpless against it as a raging alcoholic is against an open bottle of whiskey. I was incapable of drawing my own boundaries regarding food. But then I discovered that God is a personal God, and He’ll draw our boundaries according to what we need.

bWe—that is, the church—would do well to stop ignoring the word “gluttony” and instead face this topic head-on, just as we’re learning to do in regard to other addictions. It’s easy to imagine the harm we would do if we pretended that drug addiction wasn’t really a problem! Let’s stop pretending that a “real” Christian would never rip open a bag of Chips Ahoy and be powerless to stop until every crumb was gone. Jesus has set us free; let’s get truthful so we can help one another out of the pit and into freedom.

“If you hear My voice and abide in My word, you are truly My disciples; you will know the truth, and that truth will give you freedom!” (John 8:31–32, Voice)

When Standing Up for Yourself Is Not Okay

God will test us to see just how much we cherish our reputations.

Precious in God’s sight is the person whose character is above reproach . . . but those of us who belong to God have no rights when it comes to the matter of reputation. In fact, sometimes God will allow us to be slandered in order to sharpen our character.

pointing fingerA handful of years ago, in an attempt to discredit me, someone accused me of a deed I’d never even considered, much less done. The fact that the accusation was so ludicrous actually helped it to spread because people assumed there had to be at least a grain of truth in it—surely no one would make up something like that! I was devastated and humiliated. I felt the raised eyebrows and got wind of the disapproving comments. This incident was the last straw in a very difficult season during which I lost friends and experienced deep depression.

lalalaSeveral times, I tried to defend myself, which amounted to shouting into the roaring wind; my attempts were completely ineffective. Finally one morning, the Lord dealt with me point-blank: “You can defend yourself, or I can do it. Which is it going to be? You or Me?” For the next hour, as I flipped through my Bible, I “stumbled” across verse after verse about God’s role as our great Defender. I was reminded that Jesus “made himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7). If He didn’t defend Himself while being humiliated and ridiculed, surely I had no right to do so. With a feeling of great relief (defending oneself is exhausting!), I gave up the fight and simply went on about my business of loving God and loving people.

Ideally, our reputation will speak for itself—that is, our love for God will result in others knowing that we’re considerate, trustworthy, and so on. But even the most honorable person is sometimes slandered, and then his true colors will show. Often he’s faced with the choice between maintaining his good character even as his reputation is smeared across the pavement, or jumping to his own defense in spite of God’s directive to stand down.

Sometimes our comfort and strength come from simply knowing we’re pleasing to the Father, if to no one else. My story lacks a fairy-tale ending; I was never vindicated, and my accuser was never proven to be a liar. But here’s the clincher: it doesn’t matter anymore. My emotions are completely detached from the whole fiasco because it’s not my concern. My reputation is in God’s hands. He can do what He wants with it.

I leave you with a quote from A. W. Tozer: “Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other; but let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself.”