(Last week, I ate a two-week old cupcake with no hesitation. This one I saved to photograph.)
I have never had a normal relationship with food. Or my body.
When I was six, a spindly evil boy in my class called me chubby. I'd never thought I was chubby...and I certainly wasn’t chubby, weighing maybe 50 pounds with a roll of nickels in each pocket. However, that afternoon I quietly walked home from the bus stop, sadly swearing to myself that I would only eat saltine crackers—10 a day so that I would no longer be chubby. That lasted approximately half an evening. That is, until my mother made tator tots for dinner. I think that was my first experience with emotional eating...with a side of ketchup. It was warm, it was welcoming. It didn’t judge me. And it was salty. Oh, it was deliciously salty.
Six year old me should have known not to take seriously those words from the boy who was known as the class boobie-pincher…but hindsight is 20/20. And from there I remember being strangely aware of my size for a young squirt-squeezing my tummy, keeping my towel pulled tight around my pale body before swimming lessons...waiting until the last second, until the instructor gave me irritated eyes, before shyly dropping my towel and plunging into the cool water which made me feel weightless and unseen. Being weightless felt great, being unseen felt better. Mornings, before school began at my churchy elementary school, the classes would gather for devotion...sitting on freezing metal folding chairs, with our song books placed in our laps. I'd scrutinize my lap, measuring how far beyond the song book my hips and thighs extended...then glance down the row to note if my friends were thinner.
Age didn't heal the situation, and if possible made my quiet battle more difficult. High school welcomed me with very thin, athletic girls, not at all like the hippy body I'd inherited...and two cruel, naturally thin girls who I remember once laughingly mocked a curvy, but healthy, pal of mine while her back was turned. As close friends of mine struggled with anorexia, I found comfort in food. It held a magic over me, the way it could temporarily distract me from dissatisfaction with my own body, fill me...and leave me with a feeling of nothingness.
Now a fully grown adult, I often sit and tiredly wondered how long I will have to continue to fight this battle with food and weight: the incessant self-criticizing, the overwhelming compulsion to eat two-week old cupcakes or four bowls of oatmeal. And worst of all, the bleary-eyed, mascara-streaked regrets which follow my splurges-even the smallest of them.
Maybe we all fight it, some more effectively than others, I thought to myself last night. And yet, in my emotionally exhausted state, a feeling of peace overcame me. An understanding that there is so much more for me than counting calories, emotional eating, and a girl who sees her worth only inhow low she can get the number on the scale. More than an unhealthy obsession with whittling herself down, with making herself less. So often I focus on the rhythm of my own thoughts...hence my own dissatisfaction with self. Life loses it's beat when I'm not focused on keeping time with the One who somehow, in someway, sees me as beautiful...sees me as His chosen everything (1 Peter 2:9). When I get a few beats behind, instead of stopping to listen for His rhythm...validation from Him, I find myself reaching for things that I think will fill me, validate me, will bring me happiness.
This I've learned: Cupcakes taste fantastic for a minute, but they will never tell you that you are loved. Self-criticism can sometimes lead to self-betterment, but it does not improve your worth. And tator tots after age 10? To be frank, they don't really taste that great. Food can fill me, but cannot fulfill me.
But the fulfillment found when He graciously slows His beat and allows me to catch up reminds me that someone greater than me loves and finds me worthy. It pushes me forward, into the hope of knowing that there is more than this silly, self-obsessed girl could have hoped for on her own.