First) My sweet husband requested that I "flesh out" information about food issues in more depth
Second) I've received multiple emails from many of you thanking me for discussing this in an open forum and requesting more info
Third) I've already had the "Oh my gosh, so that's why at (fill in the blank event) she was feeling sick and didn't eat or got pukey" conversations (both directly and indirectly)
Here's the facts, as I've experienced them, about eating disorders coupled with gluten intolerance.
1: After a long period of having an eating disorder, your body adapts to this new starvation / throwing up MO. Your control over your body slackens to the extent that even "normal" meals can make you involuntarily sick. In other words, when I began the long and grueling process of actively warring against the addiction I'd developed in college, I often found that my body rebelled against my will. My desire was to eat healthy food in normal quantities. The effect, all too often though, was uncontrollable stomach cramping and vomitting.
Unfortunately, this is still frequently the case. Although this auto-reaction to anything other than light meals eventually diminished, it returned with a fury during my pregnancy. The slightest movement by Jude instantly ejected any contents in my stomach. This became particularly dangerous for him since he frequently lacked a full stomach of nutrients from which to feed, making him extremely skinny at birth. But God was so gracious to me and my beautiful, healthy boy. Since his birth, however, my body has reverted to it's former level of acute intolerance to: heavy-normal sized meals, fried foods, meat, and gluten of any kind. You can imagine what it's like whenever we go out to eat or have a holiday meal. I have a particular hatred of Thanksgiving because of this, which is a shame since thankfulness is a wonderful virtue to celebrate.
The point is this: not every time that I'm refusing food or throwing up is s sign of my "giving in" to my sin. This is not at all to say that there aren't still times when I do struggle and fall, but it is not a ubiquitous state of being. Most often, eating a normal or even small meal gives me severe stomach pain and sometimes even makes me wretch. My husband is extremely patient and loving in this regard, going far out of his way to make sure there's healthy food that shouldn't hurt me if my body obeys properly.
2: Everyone needs a strategy. And I don't mean this in a vague, wistful sense. With a truly reformed heart, you should also have some truly planned, thoughtfully constructed strategies to mature faith, heal in body and spirit, and break the cycle of addiction. And since we "do not war against flesh and blood alone," my plan of attack is both on the spiritual and flesh fronts. Here's my personally designed strategy toward Recovery:
A) Spiritual: Christ alone. Without the complete heart transformation of Christ, all I'd be doing is pointless behavior modification. At Steps, they describe this as the same logic as treating a headache caused by a brain tumor with Tylenol. You might feel better but you've only cured the symptom not the cause. Naturally enough, the cause is sin. My sin in pride (worrying about how I look more than I desire obedience to God); my shame (feeling worthless even though The God Of The universe gave me his worth 2000 years ago); my sinful desire for control (particularly In Times when my life feels stressful and out of control). Acknowledging my sin, my complete need of Christ, and my desire for unity with him is the greatest healer.
Flesh: Since I am a very weak person, my practical strategy for pursuing Christ was joining Recovery at the Village. Through the Steps program, I have learned so much about the beauty, power, and strength of Christ, as well as gained friends and encouragement to continue battling daily. The Steps daily study also is a great resource. It pushes me to not only be in the word daily but to meditate on and analyze what I'm reading.
B) Spiritual: Prayer is more than just "for Gods info" (as if he didn't already know what I would pray for before I even ask!), but it's also an encouragement and reminder to me of the love of the father for his children. I find that the more I pray, the more easily I can resist temptation particularly with food.
Flesh: Several years ago, I developed a simple coping strategy to eating. I have a "safe foods" and "danger foods" list, respectively, which keep me from ever even having to think about whether or not to eat something. Here's an example-
Danger Foods Are - high in fat - fried - full of gluten - full of sugar - nutritionally void
This would be junk food, deserts, pasta, bread, pizza, high-fat ice cream, candy bars, potato Chios etc. So if a person on a diet wouldn't eat it, I most likely won't eat it. Ever. Or in the very lest, almost never. These foods are dangerous because they physically make me feel sick while simultaneously attacking my poisoned psyche with "you're so fat!" accusations. Thankfully there's lots of my favorite foods the Safe list:
- fruits - nuts - vegetables - soups - rice - yogurt - salads - smoothies -COFFEE!!!!!
With these lists, or rules if you will, I pretty much go anywhere and order food without having to have an inner debate about whether or not I should eat it. I've also found that eating almost the exact thing every single day coupled with exchanging three regular meals for six small snack-meals I've been successful at longterm, sustainable healing.
Finally, I'd like to end by encouraging other women struggling with how they feel about their bodies to seek some close friends, confess, and seek practical and relevant healing. Going to a secular therapist will only (slightly) boost your self-estem. Find a good spiritual counselor and think about joining a Gospel-centered recovery program. Whatever you do, don't let your addiction and sin stay hidden. You're only poisoning yourself and those around you. For those of you who have friends and family members struggling with food related issues, please be patient and don't become a rabid watchdog ready to pounce at the slightest provocation. Many people don't share their addiction with others because they don't want their every move to be scrutinized. Be loving, always prayful, and patient.
As I close, I'd like to meditate on the truth found in my cut ankle. Two weeks ago I was shaving my legs in the shower and sliced off an inch of skin on my ankle. After staunching the blood I band-aided it and completely forgot about it. This morning before work I felt a sharp pain and removed the band-aide only to be welcomed with surge of blood. Although the band-aide stopped the bleeding, it did nothing to heal my wounded ankle. I had to put an antibiotic cream and re-bandage it to heal the stupid thing. Sin is similar: hiding it might stop the bleeding for a while but underneath, it festers an sickens. Regardless of your sin, whether food addiction, or pride, or shopping, or comfort, or lust, or even laziness, pursue honest confession with fellow believers. Bringing sin out into the light frees you from its grip. It can no longer claim your identity, but rather Christ can freely work in you and through you to the glory of God.