Do you ever feel like you struggle with food? Have you ever eaten more than you wanted to? Have you ever felt like you could not stop eating? If you are like me then you have answered yes to ALL of these questions at some point in your life and are not alone because there are thousands of people that are afflicted with food related issues all over the planet. I am also one of these people but guess what?!!! There is hope and there is freedom!
Perhaps you already know this about me but just in case you don't, I was severely bulimic for over 17 years! I nearly died but thankfully it has been 11 years since I have binged and purged my food and have been living a vibrant and beautiful life for a long time now. But this does not mean that I am still not susceptible to temptations when it comes to food but the difference now is I have someone I call upon and someone to help me through them. His name is Jesus.
When I was 29 (I am now 40) the bulimia had gotten so bad that I was literally binging and purging around the clock, unable to do anything else but that. It took a while for me to feel this way but eventually I wanted to break free from it's shackles more than anything else but when I visited a treatment center I lost all hope when I realized I did not have the money to afford the help. That was until I confided in a friend of my food struggles and found out about a FREE 12 step program for people with food addiction issues. I went to one of the meetings right away and because I was beyond desperate I joined the program immediately.
Thankfully, I stopped throwing up right away and after a few months I was amazed that I actually lost weight even though I was not exercising and was actually keeping all the food in my stomach..
Through this program I learned the importance of reaching out to people and asking for help in moments when I felt weak. I learned how to eat heathily, avoiding processed foods and anything with flour and sugar in it. I learned portion control and how vital it is to be of service to others and the most important thing I learned was that I needed to lean on a Higher Power. Thankfully I knew right away that the only real Higher Power there is, is Jesus.
For the entire ten years I was in the program I weighed out ALL of my food on a digital food scale. Every single bite. Before I retired for the night I wrote what I was going to eat the next day down in a notebook and would then call it into a sponsor every morning at 6:00 am on the dot, committing to her what I would eat that day. I also went to three mandatory meetings each week, called three people a day in the program to talk to about food related issues I may be having that day, ate my three weighed and measured meals at certain restricted meal times, did not eat ANYTHING AT ALL in between meal times, drank only water, never chewed gum, ate absolutely NO FLOUR or SUGAR, read recovery approved literature every night and morning and a plethora of additional things. The program assured me that I would never go back to bulimia if I followed all of these rules perfectly everyday.
Being a perfectionist this long list of rules worked for me. For a while. For ten years to be exact. Until I knew it was time to go. Actually, I never thought I would leave. I was not looking to leave. But to my surprise I am no longer in that program anymore and, since November of 2015, have been walking out the road of recovering from the 12 step food recovery program I was in and learning to trust God and my body every day.
So, how is it going?
To start, I have not thrown up. Not once! Now, this is a miracle because I was told for ten years that I would undoubtedly go back to bulimia if I left and not only that but I would end up being way worse than before. This intense fear kept me in the program for the whole ten years. In fact, I fully believed and declared a number of times that I would remain in the program for the rest of my life. Heck, I was grateful to do so considering the consequences of leaving. But, the prophecy of terror and torment that was spoken over me if I left has not come true. Not at all.
It took a year to do so but I have eaten flour a couple times since I left and what I was told would happen if I did eat it did not happen. I was not face down in the food after eating a flour product and I was not unable to control myself. In fact, it was tasty but not as great as I had thought it would be. Since then I have no real desire to eat any flour produts especially since I know it's not the healthiest choice for me. But it is really cool to know that I don't have to be afraid of them and that I can have themif and when I want to.
I have also eaten things with sugar in them. Now you have to understand that, for ten years, I had NO SUGAR at all. NO candy, pastries, donuts, chocolate, soda, juice, crackers, bagels, pizza, jam, cookies, peanut butter.....the list goes on and on. I would not even have a salad dressing if there was any sugar in it, even if it was the tenth ingredient way down on the list. I was frankly afraid of eating anything with sugar in it for fear I would, again, be what they called, face down in the food. But, just like the flour experience, after about a year of being out of the program, I had a piece of chocolate and did not fall face down into a pit of pastries like they said I would. I ate the chocolate. It was good. I moved on and have not had a craving since.
Now, I know I can eat sugary products and do not have to be afraid of them. I just choose not to because I know it is not healthy.
I didn;t just plunge right in and eat all kinds of flour and sugar stuff when I left. I waited and asked God when the timing was right and if it was OK to eat the chocolate and the flour product. I got the peace from Him before I did so and honestly, I think he was encouraging me to do so long before I did. But like the gentleman he is, he was patient with me.
I choose now not to eat sugary and flour filled foods because I want to be of maximum capacity to be available to whatever God wants me to do and eating crap makes me feel sluggish and poopy. So, even though I am human and may want to taste a donut from time to time and dive into a big cake I don't becasue I know where it would take me and to be quite honest I don't really want to. But I also know that, just like what happened on New Year's Eve, when I had a little pastry for dessert, it is perfectly OK to take a treat here and there if I really want one and if I really feel it is OK with God to do so. What I mean by OK with God is that I ask Him and check in with Him to see I am filled up with Him and focused on Him and not on fleshly earthly things that may pull me down into a pit of food if I am not discerning of what spiritual state I am in.
It took me a year to stop weighing everything on a scale too. I felt God encouraging me to stop this as well and it took me longer than it probably should have but I have not weighed my food for a long time now and it is going well as I find my way each day.
I also have not weighed my body since I left. For ten years I was told to get on a body scale every Friday and report my weight to my sponsor. She was in charge of not only my food but my weight. I hated weighing myself every Friday and am so relieved to not have a clue what I weigh now. My clothes fit and I think I look healthy. I don't care what I weigh. It is just a number. Now if I were to put on a lot of weight then I would want to take it off because I think it is unhealthy to carry a lot of weight and is usually a sign of a deeper problem that can be worked out and freed with Jesus.
Has it been easy since I left?
Yes and no. The amount of panic attacks and intense mental torture I went through for the first few months away from the program was pretty intense. It is worth it now that I am where I am today but it was hard for a little while in the beginning. Now, you have to understand. This program was like a cult. When you have been brain washed for ten straight years that you are a FOOD ADDICT, that you can NEVER leave the program, that you are INCAPALBE of eating like a normal person, that you have BRAIN DAMAGE and will NEVER, EVER, EVER recover it takes A LOT to TIME to change that thinking. Therefore, I would wake up in the middle of the night all by myself in my room with these horrible thoughts that would be so overwhelming, powerful and scary that the only thing that would take them away was to call upon the name of Jesus. Thank God for this because I used to rely too heavily on other things and on people when it was Jesus that I needed all along. And guess what? He came everytime.
Now this is not to say that Jesus does not come in the form of people sometimes. I believe he can and there are moments that I just need an actual person to talk to. For instance, there were a few times that the thoughts were so bad that I had to call friends to walk me through it. "Are you sure I am not going to go back to throwing up? Am I really going to be OK?" Yes! They would assure me. Thankfully I had friends that had also left the program and were walking the same path as me.
Most people that leave the program are not able to push through this torment and the temptations to eat and end up going back to the program. A lot of people do end up face down in the food and gain weight. This then causes unecessary shame. Sometimes people walk back into the program with that shame while others live outside it with it. I understand that. I know why.
I believe the program gives you a counterfeit of the real truth and disguises you with a fake freedom that seems very similar to the real freedom people can have when walking out a close and intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. The real freedom Jesus went to the cross for. I believe the program progrmas your brain to believe you are a food addict and are never going to eat normal again, thus making it almost impossible to leave it and be "successful"
But here is where I get to call it on it's bluff!!! It is all a lie. A big fat lie and why it is lying is beause it does not want ANYONE to be free! It does not want you to know about Jesus and the freedom He paid such a high price for. For you! The program wants to make you coo coo running around doing all this crazy stuff.
Case in point, the thoughts that raced in my mind when I initially left were so intense that I did go back after a few months. But, I knew I had to walk into a meeting and face it to see, one last time if I really did need to go back or if I was indeed truly free.
What happened? I went to a meeting. I am so glad I had the courage to face it. I went in with the Holy Spirit as my guide and knew He would show me what the truth was, even though it felt like I was walking into the lion's den.
I liked seeing all the people. You become like family and it hurt that these people that I used to see and spend all my time with would no longer talk to me or call me anymore because I was not part of the group anymore. I missed connecting with people and was lonely. I craved community and friendship again. But I knew I could not call myself a food addict out loud when it came up to that part of the meeting and after a couple days I never went back and have not been back since.
When I got home I got on my knees and prayed and asked God for a new community, new friends, ones that truly and wholeheartedly walked their lives out with Jesus.
Well, guess what?! He gave me all of that and more. He has replaced everything I had and everything I did not have with the truth and with the real deal now. I am no longer walking in a counterfeit. I am surrounded by people that live by the word. I am surrounded by love and encouragment, truth and community! I am so grateful.
A few months into my new life out of the program, I had a moment alone with Jesus one night through one of the intense panic moments when he assured me with the word. He said that I had not been given a spirit of fear but one of power, love and of sound mind. I felt those words wash over me. I declared them over myself even though I did not yet truly believe them yet. I wanted to believe them. But the program had programmed my mind for so long. So, I just kept praying these words over myself and declaring them over myself and singing them over myself, until eventually I was walking in them and because of this I knew I could not call myself a food addict ever again. I knew I could not join that group ever again.
Now, I am in no way telling anyone to leave this program if they don't want to or don't feel ready to. It is too much to do alone and it would have been too much for me too if I did not have the relationship I had developed with Jesus to pull me through. I do not believe anyone can walk in true freedom without Him.
Thankfully over the course of the ten years I was in the program I was developing and hungry for a relationship and deeper understanding of Jesus and the word and when I finally realized that it was HIM and not the PROGRAM that kept me away from the shackles of bulimia I knew it was time to let go of the "SAFETY NET" of the program and take the hand of my Savior to trust that HE and HE alone would walk with me day by day, minute by minute. I knew this would require a lot more obedience and an even deeper relationship but I wanted that more than I wanted to supposed safety I felt in the program.
Now this brings me to today....
I burn with a desire to see others set free too. A lot of people I know and love are still in this program. I see the lies in thier minds. I see it because I used to live it.
I feel so inadequate and incapable of effecting such a HUGE change as to free them all from it's counterfeit freedom plus there are days like today that I think most people in the program would rather not experience. I think they would rather have the saftey of their scale and their meetings and their regimen than to go through the things that come your way when you are out of the program. But there is nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain.
Today, I woke up with horrible period cramps. This is a miracle in an of itself because for the whole ten years I was in the program I did not have a period. I got it back about a year after I left.
Because of the cramps, I was not feeling well and therefore did not get up at 6:00 am to do the normal exercise routine I do with my roommate three times a week. I was also very tired. I woke up way earlier than my alarm and was not able to go back to sleep. So the combination of period cramps and feeling tired makes me want to eat. So, even though I was not super hungry, I headed to the kitchen to eat breakfast. I love breakfast. It comforts me and that is OK.
I ate my breakfast and started to read the bible but I was tired so it was just not feeling too great. So, after breakfast I started in on finishing a resume and cover letter that I was putting together to send off for a position that I am really hoping I get. This position feels way out of my leauge but it is something I know I am capable of, especially if I walk it out with Jesus and let Him carry me through each day and I am going for it. It is a scary thing and I am walking through new territory and uncomfortable unknowns, all things that make me want to just sit in front of some food and eat.
So, after I finished the resume and cover letter and had a friend look it over, I sent it and laid down to take a little nap considering I was really tired. I also wanted to sleep because I wanted to eat more. Not because I was hungry. I wanted to eat just because I love food. But I knew I did not really need to eat. I also knew that it would not be a big deal if I did because what I eat now is really good for me. Like I said I have learned to eat very heathily but I knew THIS TIME that I was just bored and uncomfortable. So I slept for a bit. Then I awoke around 10:30 am and because I am used to eating a mid morning snack I did. It was a little plate of salmon, brussel sprouts and brown rice. Yummy. But then I wanted more.
But I knew I didn't really want more. I then had the thought, Oh no! Do I need to go back to FA?! NO! NO! NO!. Why? To declare myself a food addict and let a person run my life and have people constantly telling me that I cannot trust myself and that I will never recover? NO way!
I knew that there was something wanting to pull me down. Satan was on my tail wanting to have me preoccupied with food and he did not want me to push through hard things like exercising even though I don't want to and period cramps and pursuing a career that I feel I am incapable of but that I am going to have faith and apply for anyway.
I want to live the FULL life I was created to live. Satan wants me to be weighed down by food and rules and regulations and fears. Jesus se t me free and went to the cross and paid the price for my sin so I don't have to be tempted and give in to it. This does not mean that temptations will not come. I will be tempted by food all the time, especially in high stress situations but I am not controlled by the sinful nature. I am controlled by the Spirit of the Living God because I belong to Christ and He is my Savior. So instead of eating more, I called upon the name of Jesus and began reading Romans 8 9-17. I then started to write this blog post to remember who I am, who's I am, what Jesus has done for me and I get to walk in His victory once again.
In some ways I would say it is harder to be out of the program but I would not trade it for the world because I have grown more in the past few years since being out than I can express. It requires that I call upon the Holy Spirit every moment of the day, something I want to do but am not perfect at. And for the moments when I eat a little too much I do not condemn myself or feel overcome by shame and guilt. I give it to my Savior. I run to Him again and feel His loving embrace even more.
Through all of this, I have felt the love of God more than I ever have in ways I cannot feel when I am stressed out by all the rules and regulations I used to have to live by.
And the interesting thing is that through this deeper revelation of love I have found more clarity in my purpose and as a result find that food is becoming less and less of an issue. On top of that I also find that because I am walking through trusting my body's signals, not perfectly, I am, day by day, trusting myself more and more. I grow each day. I feel more free everyday and on the days that feel hard I know I can always run to Him.
I am grateful for it all. I am grateful I was in the program for as long as I was. I am grateful He showed me that I can walk by the Spirit and be free in Him. I am grateful that he works all things together for my good and I am grateful that there is a BIGGER plan here, far bigger than I can imagine. I am just a tiny part of this but I will live my life serving the one who set me free, free indeed. Ame and praise his holy name.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
Motivated by the radical love of Jesus, I create beautiful works of art and passionately share my testimony to free people all across the earth to also fully and completely live the life they were uniquely created for.
I blog about things that I experiene and hope will motivate, guide and inspire you toward greater creativity, fulfillment, peace, and joy in your everyday life.