A Softer Shade of Red began as a body image blog. In 2014, I got fed up with my attitude about my body, my weight, and beauty. You see, after quitting smoking and three years into my worst bout with depression, I was at the heaviest I had ever been, 270 pounds, and felt hopeless. I loathed myself, couldn’t stand to look in a mirror, and had no hope for lasting change after a lifetime of destructive yo-yo dieting and an eating disorder, bulimia.
So I made a decision, I would no longer wait until I was thin to be beautiful. For my own health and sanity, I decided that I would make a conscious effort to believe that I was beautiful (and therefore worthy) and combat the lies about myself that I had so long believed.
It has been an interesting journey and I have learned a lot over the years, much of which I’ve blogged about in detail so I won’t rehash it all, but to sum it up:
- My worth comes from the Lord, not from the mirror, how others view me, my view of myself, or the number on a scale.
- Beautiful and fat are not mutually exclusive.
- Compulsive dieting and exercise are just as much an idol, and therefore a sin issue, as gluttony and sloth.
- God loves me too much to let any diet plan be my salvation. He will deliver me or I will not be delivered. My hope is in the Lord, not Jenny Craig or Dr. Atkins.
And then this weekend, God brought back around a lesson that He has been trying to teach me, but I keep avoiding because it is simply too hard…
5. It is not the food that needs to behave; it’s me.
It’s me, ya’ll.
You see, I still, after all these years and all these lessons, I still succumb to my eating disorder daily. Don’t get me wrong, it looks a lot prettier than it used to. I don’t pop laxatives like candy and I don’t end a feast on my knees in front of the toilet. I don’t even eat to the point of pain anymore, no third or fourth or fifth servings- no half-gallon of ice cream straight out of the carton. Yet I still, virtually each and every day, eat when I am not hungry. Mornings I’m good, at lunch I’m an angel, but somewhere around 6 pm each night my willpower rushes out in a whoosh and I lose my self-control. I come home famished, eat a snack as I make dinner and then I’m not hungry.
I’m not hungry. But I eat dinner anyway. Usually a large dinner because, as you all know, I am a fabulous cook. Then I’m really not hungry. Really. Yet, night after night, I still treat myself to seconds.
A second helping even though I am not hungry.
It’s not a big deal, I tell myself. Normal people eat seconds. Even skinny people eat seconds. I’ve witnessed it. Plus, the food I cook is very healthy. Seconds of chicken and vegetables is no big deal. Most people eat complete crap. I know. I’ve seen them in line at the grocery store.
After all, I don’t eat sugar, dessert, potatoes, deep fried food, or processed foods. My carbs are all complex, my veggies are uber-fresh, and my fats are never saturated. No exaggeration, I often prepare three different colored vegetables per meal. How many of you all can say that? I’m living the rainbow plate life, ya’ll.
Growing stricter and stricter each year, I have made my food behave, tried to make it righteous, and used this to balance out the fact that I am not. In my own power, I just cannot seem to resist the seductive whisper of comfort eating.
Despite this, I had managed to use my strict food rules to lose a significant amount of weight.
Yet scripture says…
And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” ~Mark 7:18-20
What about Twinkies, Lord? All those are is chemicals and sugar. Surely they defile you?
Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, That you not have it in excess and vomit it. ~Proverbs 25:16
That makes it sound like the might be a legitimate time to eat something sweet, Lord, if in moderation!
Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” ~Genesis 1:29
Even potatoes, Lord?
Over and over again, God promised the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey. Sounds like a bakery to me! Or maybe an ice cream shop!
Shoot, Jesus referred to himself as the Bread of Life. Can bread really be as evil as I’ve made it out to be? O! Maybe it’s a misprint and He meant to call Himself the Kale of Life!
This month I’ve been brought to my breaking point. I went to a doctor’s office and found that, despite all my rules, my weight has crept back up in the 2 years since I’ve weighed myself. My 2-sizes-smaller-than-they-used-to-be-jeans have begun to pinch at the waist and my energy level has dropped. My new husband and step-children don’t appreciate my many food rules and all kinds of goodies I would never usually allow have come sneaking into my home. Candy bars and chocolate syrup! Potatoes and white bread! My husband makes Irish Cream milkshakes for me. My stepdaughter bakes chocolate chip cookies. And, O, the late night Culver’s frozen custard runs! And the more I relax my food rules so as to bless them, the less self-control I possess.
So I did what any sane woman would do.
I lost my snot.
Because I’m fat, ya’ll. Again. Still. And therefore ugly. And therefore worthless. All my gorgeous body-image progress seemed to lay at a heap at my feet. All my hard-won life lessons and wisdom felt meaningless. I haven’t even been able to blog. Who am I to lecture other women on body image, food idolatry, and following the Lord? I’m a mess!
And I cried. And cried. And cried some more. I ugly cried through my husband assuring me I was beautiful. I snotted getting dressed in the morning, tearing off outfit after outfit. I wept in front of the mirror until I could no longer see my full moon face.
I cried until last Sunday morning when I took it to the Lord.
“Daddy, please help me break free of this food idolatry sin cycle I never seem to escape. I don’t just want to modify my behavior or work damage control. I’m looking for complete and total freedom from overeating.”
And God answered. First, I got peace. It washed over me like a river.
Then, in my morning scripture reading I was given wisdom: I am not alone in this struggle. But, hallelujah, through Christ, there can be freedom from the sin cycle!
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ~Romans 7:14-25
That is exactly what I’ve done. Over and over again, when I’ve heard that still small voice of the Spirit stirring in my heart I’ve shushed it. I’m talked back, “This is baked turkey breast! This is roasted asparagus!” and made my own rules, “If it’s low in carbs, seconds don’t count.”
And, O, I’ve shushed the Spirit right into silence. As a result, in this area of my life at least, I’m numb to healthy conviction. And so I’m left alone with and vulnerable to the condemning voice of the enemy…
“You’ll never change”
And so I repented. Since church on Sunday my prayer has been one of repentance, “Holy Spirit, I have hushed you instead of heeded you,” agreement, “I’m the one who needs to learn to behave, not the food,” and supplication, “Please tune my heart to hear your voice and to desire to obey it.”
I’ve been praying each morning and before each meal. I’ve been begging the Holy Spirit to speak loudly about my eating habits for perhaps the first time in my life.
And it’s working.
I didn’t overeat Sunday. On Monday night, I limited myself to one portion of stuffed shells and roasted asparagus. I savored a thin slice of homemade cheesecake, yet did not lose control. I scraped kids’ leftovers into the trash can.
And tonight? Tonight one daughter pulled leftover pork roast from the fridge and made a request, “Nachos.” Nachos!?! Cheesy warm and toasty tortilla chips with chunks of rich pork roast? Talk about a recipe for disaster. And on day 3? I never have any will power left on day three!
But I made them. And I took my little salad plate of nachos complete with a scoop of sour cream for myself and sat down. Then I prayed. And I ate.
And then the mental struggle began.
Because, ya’ll, I wanted more nachos. I mean, seriously, I wanted ALL the nachos.
ALL. THE. NACHOS.
If you’ve never wrestled against a food idolatry issue, this may seem melodramatic, but no lie, I was desperate for nachos.
I considered, perhaps I’m still hungry? I’ll give it 20 minutes.
I gave it 20 minutes. I was not hungry. But I wanted nachos.
I hoped maybe the rest of family would just eat the entire tray. A convenient remove all temptation type scenario would be just the thing! But then one kid didn’t eat, another one made plans to go out for dinner, and the husband had leftover shells instead. Foiled.
My last hope was that a responsible kid would at least do their chores and put the leftover nachos away before the whole lot of them left for the movies. I could possibly resist the whispering of cheese and pork if muted by the dark recesses of the fridge. I even thought about ordering a kid to do so. I went so far as to ask whose dish night it was. But then I faltered. I wanted those delicious corn chips crispy, not soggy.
They left. I was alone. Just me and the nachos.
And you guys, honestly, I cried a little.
I don’t like listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit between 6 and 10 pm. I like nachos.
But then, in a desperate act, I prayed. I prayed, then I hauled my butt to the kitchen and I shoved those nachos into a Ziplock and tossed them into the fridge in triumph. Take that, devil chips!
Really, that should be the end of the story. I know it should. Triumph and glory! Victory in the Spirit! Freedom in Christ! Hallelujah! Amen! But the thing is, when I threw those nachos in the fridge, I saw the remaining half of the cheesecake I had finally given in and baked for my husband yesterday.
I make really good cheesecake, ya’ll. Really. And this one was particularly delicious. Chocolate chip cookie crust and all (hey, I wasn’t about to WASTE all those leftover chocolate chip cookies that my stepdaughter’s been baking.) So I made a deal with the Holy Spirit, “I’m going to set the oven timer. I had a very small portion of nachos; I’m setting the times for 2 hours. When it goes off, I’m having a small slice of cheesecake. Help me to make it two hours without eating.”
And I sat down. No cheesecake. No nachos. But with a blog post rolling and roaming through my mind. A blog post itching in these fingertips that have not written in over a month.
And I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote.
I wrote a testimony of the legalism in man-made laws and the freedom from sin in Christ. A tribute to my own weakness and the strength of a mighty God. A tale of nachos and cheesecake.
But if you’ll excuse me now, there’s a kitchen timer going off. It’s been sounding every minute or so for the last hour and I think it’s time to heed it. I’m terribly late for a date with a piece of cheesecake.