As she handed over my bagel, the clerk at Bruegger’s asked me if I was okay. “Are you eating enough? You aren’t starving yourself, are you?”
Thankfully, I can be honest. “No.” I eat. Trust me, I eat. I’ve been there with the starve-binge-purge cycle, and I do not want to return. It’s endless: a whirlpool that sucks you deeper and deeper until you think you’ll drown (and want to drown, just to end the feeling of being drowned).
And when you’re finally spit out—splat!—like Jonah from his fish, you feel relief—never going to Tarshish again!—and yet an uneasy dread, lest you swim too close and get sucked back into those same attitudes, like Jonah moaning in bitterness, post merciful-God-intervention in Ninevah.
I’m healthy now. My weight is stable. But I find myself being hypervigilant whenever I sense that I’m slipping back into that whirlpool of diet-or-die attitudes: tallying calories, deprivation, post-dessert guilt. The triggers are everywhere, though. Our society is obsessed with bodies and food, and completely misses the point of why we have both.
Our bodies were created by God as a means to glorify him and to show us how dependent we are on him for our very lives. After all, without him, we wouldn’t be chewing and swallowing and digesting and getting nutrients from food. And it was a perfectly delightful idea on God’s part to make food delicious, as well as nutritious, and to create the concept of eating meals with other people in community. He didn’t have to, but I think we’d miss so much if food was tasteless and eaten in isolation.
But for people with eating disorders (or body image issues), it’s hard to remember that. It’s easy for me to get sucked into the oh-my-body-is-horrible-and-food-is-the-enemy attitude.
Hanging out with women whining about their weight.
Reading about female bodybuilders’ eating/exercise routines.
Browsing an article about reduction of pore size or fifty ways to cut fifty calories or other such nonsense.
The attitude is so common that it’s hard to avoid completely.
Even something like reading a blog post can trigger memories that I think I’ve dealt with. A while ago, I read a blog post titled something along the lines of “I hate being fat.” It was supposed to be a funny post.
I knew I shouldn’t read it.
I read it.
For days, I was obsessing over my appearance. I didn’t start starving or binging or purging; no, technically, I was perfectly fine. Normal. But I stared into the mirror, searching out flaws. I got teary-eyed over my pores. I cried to my mother about stretch marks. She gave me a good shake of the shoulders—metaphorically, as we were talking on the phone—and the cells in my brain clunked together and I realized why I was obsessing over my looks.
I’d read a blog post that I knew I shouldn’t read, opening myself up to that world of discontent. Then I became like Jonah again, grumbling in the face of God’s grace, having an attitude of disobedience even while technically obedient. He’s more concerned about a dead vine than the people of Ninevah; I was more concerned about stretch marks from pregnancy than grateful to have a functional, strong body that bore children.
Every time I read that book, I wonder what happened after God talks to Jonah. Does the grumbling prophet repent? Does he realize that God’s mercy to the city of Ninevah is a beautiful thing? Does he realize that he, too, is in need of God’s mercy?
Just as importantly, do I repent of my ingratitude toward God’s mercy in my life? Do I reject technical obedience, fall on God’s grace, and change my attitude?
(We’re in the process of moving to a new house, so I’m not sure when my internet connection there will be up and running. I’ll read and respond to comments as soon as I can!)