I've been thinking about losing weight lately--and trust me, I have some pounds (or 30) to shed. Well,that 'lately' is misleading, because I'm always thinking about losing weight. It's one of the battles of my life. And the history of that battle contains some pretty uglycatfights.
I was a thin child. Not just slender, but tipped over into skinny, and, in fact, because I got sick with regularity, my deepset eyes often looked like sunken holes in my head, with such dark half-circles beneath them that I was routinely asked (even into college!) who punched me to give me those black eyes. Long, skinny face, long skinny hair--oh man, was I ever a beauty! And so skinny compared to my siblings that in pictures I sometimes looked like I'd been kept in a closet, starving.
However, in childhood, the only starving I did was when my mom set oatmeal on the breakfast table, or peas on my dinner plate. And I'm not one of those 'live to eat' people who populate this planet and my own life. The Beve? He lives to eat every moment of the day. Though he has strong will power, and can go long hours without eating, he's always thinking about it. It used to drive me crazy--he'd call me up while I was still trying to feed to kids breakfast to ask what I had in mind for dinner. To be clear, I NEVER had anything in mind at 7 in the morning. Shoot, my brain was barely working yet.
The truth is, I eat to live, just to keep myself alive. And that hasn't always even been a sure thing. When I was in college, my then-fiance told me I was fat, apparently just trying 'to help.' As my mother would have said, "You need help like that like you need a hole in the head." In fact, he said he'd give me a hundred dollars if I lost 15 pounds before our wedding. Imagine that kind of support the rest of our lives! (Have I said recently how grateful I am NOT to have that man in my life?) Trust me, I wasn't fat. However, a couple of months later, I'd hit on the perfect diet plan. Heartbreak! That broken engagement sent me spiralling into dieting. Not just dieting, like I was picking and choosing what to eat--more like starvation. For weeks and weeks I literally ate nothing. I'd try, but couldn't make myself swallow. I know that some people eat for comfort, but my body ties itself up in such knots, eating is anathema to me. Before long--back there in the early 80s--I'd starved myself right into an eating disorder. For a couple of years, I was in a terrible rhythm of only eating one week a month, the week I'd get a headache if I didn't. Or if I was forced by family or circumstance, I always had a stash of laxatives at the ready, not to mention a handy finger or two if absolutely necessary (though, I really hate vomiting, so rarely made myself do it).
Let me tell you, I got pretty dang skinny in those days. Startlingly skinny to folks who hadn't seen me in a while. I didn't notice it myself--I mean, like all girls with eating disorders, I continued to think I had more weight to lose. 104 lbs made me want to get below 100. But I could never seem to crash that barrier (thank God).
What pulled me out of it wasn't an intervention by friends or parents. It was merely circumstance (a typical way for the Spirit to work, in my experience). I had plans to go to Europe, and decided I wanted to eat all kinds of interesting cusines. Bread (which I loved but hadn't put in my mouth in years!), cheese, all kinds of desserts. So I went to Europe and ate. Sure, I panicked about how 'fat' my hips were getting (I think I wore a size six in those days!), and often on that trip I'd pinch the skin below my ribs and wonder how much weight I'd gained. As I say, it was always, always a battle.
OK, so it still is. Obviously I am not skin and bones any more. A doctor told me many years ago when I was bemoaning my inability to lose weight, that eating disorders tend to completely destroy people's metabolism. He called what I had by then, "a negative metabolism". My body turns even good nutrients into fat because it has the memory of being starved.
That memory? It's still in my psyche as well. But unfortunately, it's not the negative memory it should be. That is, it's still in me to want to starve myself, to punish myself for failures, for pain, by equating the emptiness with an empty gut. As I said, it's a lifelong battle. You wouldn't look at me and think I do without food, not even close. But honestly, I can't really tell how overweight I really am. To me, it's like I should be a contestant on "Big Loser!" That obese. It's just that I can't see myself clearly.
I still starve myself when the chips are down. When my dad died, all I ate were cucumbers and yogurt for about two months. Anything else made me sick. And I felt the ease with which I could actually give up food altogether. I still feel it--whenever I fast for the right reasons, it's easy to tip over into a physiological one.
I am revealing a pretty bleak side of myself today. The demon that lives at the back of the closet whispering lies to me. Because it's not food that's the enemy, any more than it's the things that haunt you. And it's not even the size or shape of my body that is 'wrong.' It's the world, it's my own human eyes, that looks at the outward appearances. God judges the heart. And when I get discouraged about my weight (or about the fact that I've fallen into starving--again!), I think of this. I pray for a large, malleable heart, one that is controlled by, driven by, swallowed up in the inhabiting Holy Spirit. I pray for an inner diet of holiness, an Godly inner nutrition that will far outlast this ridiculous--but God-given!--body.