Would you believe it if I told you that while writing my eating disorder story I actually thought I didn’t really struggle with food anymore?
It’s true. I really thought it no longer applied to me. Sure, I’ve technically been “recovered” from an eating disorder for over five years. I don’t make myself throw up anymore. I don’t technically starve myself. But, as I’ve recently come to terms with, I definitely still struggle.
The tricky part about all this is I believe that one of my God-given gifts is my passion for health and fitness. It is something I get really excited about. I absolutely love talking to people about exercising, healthy eating, and encouraging and motivating others to do so.
But while exercise and I get along great – I love it, it loves me, and we can maintain a healthy perspective about the whole thing – healthy eating and I do not.
An Unhealthy Addiction to Health?
Healthy eating is my alcohol – my addiction, obsession, my idol. I can’t go there.
I recently did a 21 day fitness challenge, and I absolutely loved it. However, when it came down to the eating portion, I had a mini meltdown. I struggle HARD with placing too many parameters on my eating habits. I quickly go from simply making healthier choices to radically restricting, obsessing, and berating myself if I don’t follow through perfectly. I fall into terrible, long-forgotten habits that I thought I’d long-since dealt with and removed from my life.
Where is the line between obsessing and health eating? And how do I keep from crossing it?
I love fitness. I love eating well. But I find with my all or nothing mentality, I can’t keep the perfect diet portion up without serious, long-term consequences to my mental and physical health. I quickly go from honoring God by treating my body well, to dishonoring God by overdoing it, obsessing, and making perfect health, diet, and fitness my idol.
Does this mean I need to stay away from health and fitness all together? I don’t believe so.
But what I’ve noticed is this: It all comes down to my primary focus.
I realize that when I cross the food-idolatry line, I’m more focused on ME, and less focused on HE.
I start making this idea of the perfect diet and perfect health my idol. My gaze slowly drifts away from my PURPOSE for making these choices (honoring God and my body, encouraging others), and unintentionally becomes more focused on what I want to see happen as a RESULT of these choices (the “perfect” body/health/etc . . .).
I play the comparison game.
I compare myself to these other women and moms who seem to do it all and still manage to wear a size 2.
I complain about why it can’t be this easy for me. I work harder and try harder because clearly I must be doing something wrong.
I obsess over every single “bad” thing I put in my mouth.
I lose sight of my first goal – honoring God.
Three Steps to Stop The Cycle
So how do I stop this vicious cycle? If I truly believe that my passion for it is my gift, at what point does my gift become my idol? And how do I use my gift to honor God and bless others, without crossing the idolatry line?
I don’t have the answers to all these questions, and they will be different for everyone. Here are some things I do when I start teetering over that slippery edge.
1. Check my focus.
WHERE am I looking? Is my focus truly God-centered, or has it shifted to me-centered?
I ask God for clarity, guidance, and direction to help me tread carefully and make sure my focus aligns with His.
Sometimes I might need to avoid it all together, at least for the time being. If these restricting diets are triggers for me, then it might be better to just pass.
As someone with a background of eating disorders, but a true love and passion for health and fitness, this discovered truth is painful. But it’s also enlightening. It’s opened my eyes to weak points in my life; as something bigger I need to hand over to God. It has helped me take stock of where my focus truly lies. It has uncovered hidden areas of selfishness that I need to continually surrender.
For those of us perfectionists who struggle with an all or nothing mentality when it comes to food, those of us that are living in between the space of recovery from disordered eating, but still perplexed as to why food is just. so. difficult. Maybe this is just our thing – our thorn – that we need to continually check, refocus, and, surrendering again and again, hand back to Him.
Alicia is a Jesus follower, wife, and boymom of three busy little guys. She currently resides in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys lots of rain, lots of coffee, and a little reading. She writes about all things faith, contentment, and motherhood over at Turquoise Grace, where she offers up a little dose of grace for the mommed-out heart. Read Alicia’s other posts here.