How do I break free from the bondage of food? I went to professional counseling to help me answer this question. I went to a registered dietitian as well. I sought my answer in books and blogs. And as I exposed myself to such expertise, two different approaches continued to surface, both of which tried to deal with the inevitable. The inevitable was that things were about to get uncomfortable. It is most comfortable for a binge eater or for an emotional eater to turn to food for comfort. But when the pacifier of food is taken away, all comfort seems to go with it, and one is left alone and uncomfortable once more, sitting in the midst of empty wrappers and boxes, planning ahead for the next time food would be a comfort.
My pursuit of comfort sent me running into the arms of an eating disorder. And the eating disorder always comforted me, to an extent. It was consistent in how it served and administered its costly comfort, a cost which continued to rise with each passing day. And even though its demands were heavy, I’d offer whatever it took in exchange for the comforting, numbness it promised. It handed me a pacifier, and for a few minutes, the minutes I lived for and carefully crafted my world around, I imagined myself, comforted.
But what happens when we no longer desire to be comforted by food? What happens when our eyes are opened to the truth and we realize where our comfort truly is and where our hope truly lies. Regardless of whether we struggle with binge eating or emotional eating, the deep, surging urge is still there. It doesn’t suddenly disappear. We are left alone, waiting to weather the pounding waves without comfort, without food.
If you no longer desire to be comforted by food, then you have to get ready to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, or so they told me. How does one do this? (And here I am strictly speaking to simply the behavior of responding to an urge. We want to start equipping ourselves to fight against this urge, even if we haven’t yet sorted out all the psychological reason that may have contributed to the eating disorder in the first place.} It seems like there are two ways to deal with the discomfort of not binging. The first would be to replace the uncomfortable feeling with something else (i.e. walk, calling someone, bath, etc.). Distract yourself from the discomfort. Another school of thought, recommended by Kathryn Hansen, in her book “Brain Over Binge”, is to simply sit with the uncomfortableness.
Sit uncomfortably. Allowing the urge to pass, not ignoring it, not dismissing it, but allowing it to run its course, breathing deeply through its storm. I have found much about this recommendation helpful, but I’ve also felt as if it never went far enough. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable can only take us so far.
I always wanted to slap the name “Jesus” over this whole process to make sure it was engaging Jesus as if He was some kid wanting to be included in a game of tag. But Christ is not someone who longs to be invited into a game you are already playing. Christ changes the game. Christ is the game. He is the goal. He is the prize. He is the treasure.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). It is not “Be still, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. There is no hope in getting uncomfortable for merely discomfort’s sake.
Two of my children were playing on our bed this morning. It is a fairly high bed. One of these children was suddenly pushed off the bed and landed quite hard on his back. I was right there and dropped beside him to make sure he hadn’t landed on his arm (which is in a cast). His wide-open eyes, which were full of terror, and his wide-open mouth, from which no scream came, clearly said the wind had gotten knocked out of him. I gathered him up in my arms and looked into his eyes which looked to me pleadingly. They pleaded for me to do something, to help him breathe. I held him close and spoke to him, the exact words I can’t quite remember. But I do know they were words of comfort. I told him I would not leave him. That I understood what was going on, and that I would sit and hold him, and again, that I would not leave him.
Resisting an urge to binge feels a lot like getting the wind knocked out of you. It is scary and suffocating. It would be easy to simply say, “Jesus is with you.” And He is. He walks with us through our most intense suffering. He will never leave us nor forsake us. And this is a beautiful and life-altering promise. But I think, when we come the question of “How do I break free from a food addiction”, Jesus is beckoning us in, deeper with him. Our Father longs to give us good gifts, He longs to give us more of Himself. And suddenly, we find our question, “How do I break free from the bondage of food?” transforming into, “How do I “How can I have more of You, Jesus?!”
Not running to food for comfort will feel uncomfortable. It will feel like the first time you got the wind knocked out of you. But what if, it was in these very moments, the uncomfortable moments in which we cannot breathe, we will taste more of Him. We will see more of Him. We will feel His presence more than we ever have before because never before have we felt so desperate for Him. It is because He loves us, that we have come to this place, this place of asking “How can I break free from the bondage of food?” And He intends to answer that question by giving us Himself. How it will look like in each beautiful life will vary. But there are some things that are certain.
He will comfort us as no one and nothing in this life could ever promise, so that our hearts are caught up with the Psalmist, saying, “And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” (Ps. 73:25) Do we desire Him? Do we desire Him louder than the screams of our flesh? And know that our flesh will scream so loudly, that at times, we will not be able to breathe. And when we answer our flesh, are we casting ourselves away from the one source of comfort and hope that promises us life? Jesus already paid that price. Jesus already paid our price.
“Papa? Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. “Papa? Where are you? Don’t leave me!” And for the first time-and the last-when he spoke nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn’t answer. He turned away from his Boy. Tears rolled down Jesus’ face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.” (The Jesus Storybook Bible, pg. 304).
Our flesh never ever wants us to taste His astounding forgiveness or His unrelenting love. When we throw the pacifier of food in our mouths, when we stumble, let us not hide away from our Father’s arms. His arms are for us, forever and always. Regardless of whether we have resisted an urge to binge, or whether we have not. In these moments, let us look full into the face of our Good Father. For because of Jesus, we have a Father who is for us, and if He is for us, nothing shall stand against us.