The Heart of the Problem

20110902-121331.jpg Here's the thing: I hate food. That's not something you're supposed to say. That's not even something you're supposed to think, though I'd bet you the vast majority of American women do think it to some extent. But still I hate it. I've hated food since my first diet at age 9.

I was, in all fairness, tipped slightly on the chubby-side of the 9 year old scale. What made the unsightly fat rolls worse were my broad, boy shoulders, square, serious face, and short, thin hair. It's December and around 10 pm. I'd just returned home from singing Christmas carols with my bible class to a group of elderly unfortunate residents of a local nursing home. Post caroling, we were told to converse with the natives, and like the nervous English explorers before us, we approached them with a mixture of trepidation and morbid curiosity. Taking my mission as ambassador of youthful cheer quite seriously, I approached a wrinkled, musty women, and bravely stuck out my hand. She grinned a toothless, beaky smile at me and patted my sweaty hand encouragingly. "What a fine voice you have, young man!" My heart did an instantaneous plummet through the floor. Young man?! Young man? I was a woman!* (*As a side note, it's been my observation that the majority of 9 year olds believe themselves to be already among the happy ranks of grown ups. Just the other night, I heard an 8 year old girl sharing wisely to her 3 companions about the proper technique for kissing. She did this while gripping tightly to an iPhone in one hand and a fluffy pink bunny in the other...)

When I returned home that night, I locked myself in the bathroom, ripped off the layers of clothing down to my underwear, and gave my body a critical once over. My inspection, though earnest, revealed what I already knew: I was a boobless 9 year old with those ripples of pudge just under the surface, who wasn't allowed to shave her legs. Some how I concluded that fat = stomach > boobs. In my case, without even a hiccup of curves to promise "better days ahead," I opted for making my stomach smaller and keeping the two regions roughly equal in latitude. Being of a determined nature I decided to fix my problem the old fashioned way: straight up starvation. My arsenal included convincing myself that food was horrible; imagining bugs crawling all over my dinner plate; looking up pictures of starving prisoners in our old encyclopedia and feeling sheepishly jealous of their lean bodies; and, with the infallible logic of a 9 year old, filling up on marshmallows and other "fat free" foods.

Some of you are wondering at this point why I said in my previous posts that my eating disorder began at 19. Technically it did. From 9 to 19 I lived in a mental 24/7 diet whose only real affect was a constant blanket of guilt. I hated my "weakness" of being unable to successfully skip multiple meals or avoid sweets, but besides that, I never really starved or binged. To all outward appearances I was ignorably normal with food.

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Here's the point (yes, there is one): My heart fostered sin early on. It cleared the area and planted seeds of a distorted body image, a severe preoccupation with myself, a crippling fear of what others thought of me, and a general sense of ugliness and worthlessness. My flesh (along with some spiritual mischief no doubt) grabbed the opportunity of first "love's" bitter disappointment to grow the long dormant behavior of an eating disorder into a sturdy weed. Thoughts of ugliness began to produce actions of starvation, food avoidance, food obsession, vomiting, and a deep fear of being seen eating anything unhealthy. The long dormant seeds of sin in me burst out of the ground with a vigor only explained by 10 years of quiet, mental fertilization.

The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.

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But thanks be to God who through mercy upon mercies frees me from the enslavement to myself, helps me battle my desire for perfectionism, and gives me worth by clothing me in his worth.

"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise." - Jeremiah 17:14 (ESV)

Jenny Smith

3705 Oceanview Drive, Denton, TX, 76208