I’ve done a lot of work on myself. No, not plastic surgery or anything like that. I’ve done heart work, brain work, behavior work, and I’m pretty proud of myself. Through counseling, reading, reflection, prayer and conversation, my goal is to live this life in a way that is “aware.” Certainly, I am not at the end of any growth around this. Our lives are journeys. With God’s help, we each have the opportunity to always be growing, learning and becoming our better selves, our self that God intended.
The next step of growth has been thrust before me recently. Although, it had been gnawing at me for quite some time. This new truth came at the burning fire located just below my breast bone. Thanks to Zegrid the burning has gone away, but the truth remains. I have a terrible relationship with food.
My first indication around this was at the table with kindergartners during a brief stint at substitute teaching before I started seminary. I sat with the kids because I had no idea you didn’t have to do so. One of the kids blurted out: “Look how fast the teacher eats!” Now, this could have been influenced by the fact that I had just quit waiting tables. When you are waiting, you have to eat when you can and that usually means fast. The reality is that I still eat quickly. It’s been nearly 10 years since I waited tables. Seems to me I don’t have a really good reason for it anymore.
My first struggle with weight was in middle school. I contracted what the doctors finally decided was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. As a result, there was a week-long hospital stay followed by over a year of high doses of prednisone and other steroids. Steroids are notorious for their side effects. Mine were significantly worsened near-sightedness, weight gain, and curly hair. The last one is a special Kelli-only side effect. The other two are common. Weight gain doesn’t exactly explain what steroids do. They make you hungry all the time. Then, the food doesn’t really satisfy you. You are stuffed but the sensor in your brain doesn’t truly know it. You retain water and your face gets puffy. All this in middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL.
Ever since then, I’ve hated my weight, whatever it was. When I weighed 120, I wanted to be 110. When I weighed 150, I wanted to be 130. And, last year when I reached my scale-number breaking point at 180, I went on a diet. I downloaded one of those apps where you count calories, adding your workouts to offset what you’ve eaten. It did really well, too. I lost 15 pounds and kept it off until some stress caused me to fall off the diet wagon and gain it back.
What I have managed to admit to myself this week is that even though I hate that number on the scale and the number on the tag of my pants, my problem is not so much a body image/weight issue as it is a food issue. When I look in the mirror, I feel confident. Thanks to an amazing husband, I know I am loved just as I am. God loves me and can do good things through me at any weight. When I look at a plate, I see problem solving (that isn’t real). I see food that makes me feel good because it tastes good. I see guilt at the bottom when the food is gone, especially when I’ve over eaten. For some reason I eat like someone is going to take it away from me. I have a dog who does that as a result of abuse. Through inference, maybe there’s something deeper I need to figure out.
My taking this deeper is this year’s Lenten journey. I’ve done the give up soda, give up alcohol, add a devotional thing. But, for the first time, this Lent is really going deeper for me and for my relationship with God. I use food for emotional reasons. When I’m stressed I over eat. When I’m happy I over eat. For some reasons my brain has been wired over time to seek calm or celebrate with a full plate that becomes a full belly.
In order to move forward on this journey, I’ve discovered MINDFUL EATING. It’s almost like learning to eat all over again. Here a few of my lessons learned and suggestions to follow. (All are from www.tcme.org.)
First: Ask yourself, “What do I want this food to do?" before eating.
Second: Approach eating something as if you’ve never had it before.
Third: Eat with all 5 senses - smell, see, hear, touch (what does it feel like in your mouth), and of course taste.
Here we go, friends. Let’s see where this journey of mindful eating takes me through Lent. Maybe I’ll lose some weight, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to love food for the right reasons, and get the obstacles out of the way to being the better self that God has in store for me and each of us.