I’ve been in recovery for 6 years now, and therapy throughout my life, and just recently God brought me an answer to a life long conundrum. Where did my eating disorder really begin? What makes me afraid of food and ashamed of eating, so much so that I hide it? Why do I feel like I’m not allowed to eat pleasurable foods, and that people are watching and judging me for it because I am overweight?
After all this time, He brought me back to a large plate of spaghetti from my teens that I had totally forgotten about. He walked me through the memory of being shamed for eating that much spaghetti, “more than a grown man would eat”. He showed me where the shame started, but He also showed me the fallacy that I learned from that situation – that I SHOULD be ashamed of myself for eating what I eat.
I am bad, I am wrong, I am unacceptable because of my eating (and my weight). If I want to eat, I have to hide it, do it at night, sneak it to escape the shame of being seen eating by others who will judge me as unacceptable and disgusting. The only problem is that the shame went with me into the dark places I indulged, like a ball and chain attached to my leg. I had swallowed whole the “truth” that I should be ashamed of myself. I had no idea that the eating and the food and the secrets were not the source of my shame – what others had said to me was the source of my shame.
In my memory, God the Father entered into the room and sat at the table with me. He asked me why I liked spaghetti. I said because it was sweet and tasted good and made me feel good. He said that is why it is called “comfort food”. Normally, people eat comfort food when something is bothering them. Is something bothering you?
Yes, I answered. I’m sure I always felt bothered by something. Kids at schools had ignored or bullied me, so there was always that. There were things I just didn’t understand about life or myself. There were family issues. And then there was simply the feeling that I was different from everyone else and would never fit in.
But God the Father recognized that my eating all that spaghetti simply meant that I was having problems and didn’t know how to deal with them or my emotions. He didn’t judge me or say there was anything wrong with me or what I was doing. Instead, He dealt with the underlying problem without shaming me about my food or my eating.
He said, let’s finish our spaghetti and go walking outside and talk about what’s bothering you. You can ask me questions and I’ll help you figure things out. And that’s just what we did. His actions and words said there was nothing inexplicably wrong with me, that He understood me, and then offered to help me figure life out.
So many of us were left to our own devices when it came to figuring out life. No one taught us what to do with our emotions in a healthy way. No one helped us learn how to maneuver life situations. Comments like, “Keep on crying and I’ll give you something to cry about!” Or “Don’t talk to me with that tone of voice!” Or “If you can’t act right, just go to your room.” teach us what NOT to do, but not WHAT to do.
It’s not because our parents didn’t love us or want to help us. It’s just that they had no clue what to do. They just did what their parents did, said what their parents said. They passed on their parents’ values to us. They were left to just figure it out for themselves. So we were just supposed to figure it out for ourselves.
But children and teens don’t have adult brains, and CAN’T figure out healthy solutions to life’s complicated problems unless they stumble upon it accidentally. So we drank, had sex, did drugs, spent money, or ate large plates of spaghetti to try and feel better. The irony is that we chose coping mechanisms which we either learned from our parents or from kids around us. We did as they did, not as they said.
But God knows why we do what we do and doesn’t judge us or shame us for it. He knows we still have no clue how to process emotions and hard situations, and that our unhealthy coping mechanisms were most likely passed down to us from our parents. He is not concerned with our outer appearance (except where it has to do with our health), but with our willingness to let Him come in and undo the effect that we and others have had on our lives. He wants to hear what’s bothering us and teach us what to do and how to process our emotions about it.
Whatever your coping mechanisms are that make you feel ashamed, He is not ashamed of you. He loves you and wants to re-parent you, teach you what you’ve never learned and love you like you’ve never been loved – unconditionally, no perfection (inward or outward) required. Then you can learn to love yourself, despite your mess-ups and flaws, and see yourself as He does – as a child who is doing the best they can with what they were given, still fully accepted and adored by their Father.
Your Sister In Christ,