For you are a slave to whatever controls you.
2 Peter 2:19 NLT
I have learned something new from each of the special and unique women I have worked with in residential eating disorder treatment. Together, we worked to discover the tricks that would be helpful to them as they battled their diseases daily.
For a young woman named Amy, three little words became especially effective in getting her through meal times early on in her recovery: “It’s just food.” Amy had created a pattern, as many of us do, of giving food far more power in her life than it was ever meant to have.
Eating caused Amy to feel her emotions. If she didn’t eat, she was numb, but if she ate, intense emotions came flooding into her heart just as the food came into her system. Food became guilt. Food became shame. Food was loneliness, abandonment, and fear, as well as a flood of unspeakable traumatic memories.
For the first several weeks of treatment, Amy would tremble violently after a meal, overwhelmed by a swell of unidentifiable feelings, until she would force her way into the bathroom to rid herself of both the food and the feelings, emerging numb once again.
Food need not have this kind of power in our lives. God created food for the nourishment of our bodies. He created it and provides it so that we might fuel and strengthen ourselves to carry out the work He gives us, to live life to the full (John 10:10), and to have energy to live out and enjoy our days on earth.
But for women blinded by the powerful lies of an eating disorder, food takes on extraneous significance. It becomes poison, or lover, or constant companion, or threatening abuser. Ultimately, food becomes an object of love or fear…or both.
Whether one’s life becomes devoted to the terrified avoidance of food or the violent cycle of taking it in and tossing it back, food becomes master. If this is the case for you, think back. Can you recall a “before?” Was there a time in your life when food was just…food? When clothes were just clothes and fitting rooms weren’t scary and you actually fed yourself for the purpose of sustaining energy for life? Can you recall a time when food did not have a number value attached to it and your body wasn’t a constant source of judgment and shame? Can you remember freedom?
Some of you will remember, and some will not. Some of you will swear you “came this way” with a peculiar tendency to gravitate toward the self-destruct button. But you did not. Brokenness, lies, and wounds have led you here, and there is One who stands by, lovingly and longingly, to lead you back out. Say it with me: “It’s just food.” It really is. And it always has been.
People are slaves to whatever has mastered them. Don’t let food master you.
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Has food taken on a different meaning for you?
Jena Morrow’s debut book, “Hope,” chronicles her nearly three-decade-long battle with eating and body image issues. In her second book, “Hope for the Hollow,” Jena takes readers on a thirty-day devotional journey to challenge eating disordered thoughts and beliefs in light of God’s Word. In addition to being a writer, speaker, and activist for eating disorder awareness and prevention, Jena works as the Alumnae Coordinator at Timberline Knolls in Lemont, IL, a premiere residential treatment center for women and girls battling eating disorders, substance abuse, mood disorders, self-injury, and PTSD. Jena makes her home in a suburb of Chicago with her son, Jaden, his pet snake Stephanie, and a mischievous cat named Prim.