For as along as I can remember, food and I have had an unhealthy relationship. Like middle school dating when the couple lovingly bickers about who should hang up first, food and I couldn’t quite figure out how to quit each other. Unlike the middle school relationship where they breakup when one realizes that the fit isn’t quite right, my emotionally dependent relationship with food followed me into adulthood. Some seasons have been worse than others, but until recently it felt like the boyfriend I could not quite stay away from even though the relationship wasn’t good for me.
My unhealthy relationship with food looked something like this: purposely leaving my sorority house during the dinner hour because I was stressed and “didn’t feel like eating”; binging on sweets after a hard day of classes only to feel guilty and workout during dinner instead of eating real food; writing my weight on my calendar daily. As a girl who tends to live a jam-packed, one may say, overpacked, schedule, when I started to feel overwhelmed, I longed for something to control. Manipulating food was a coping mechanism. While some turn to alcohol or sex, at my absolute lowest, being hungry gave me a high that made me thrive. Weight loss was not the primary goal, control was, but somewhere along the way, they became interconnected. I was so lost in this unhealthy relationship that I did not know my way out.
Unlike an unhealthy relationship with a person, I need food to survive. It’s necessary to function. It not as simple as cutting off communication with someone who may be toxic; its something I have needed to wrestle with every day.
In the spring of 2014, I trained for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon and during my training I started to lose weight. Instead of my brain recognizing that I needed to eat more food to compensate for the 1,000 calories I would burn on my long runs, my mind traveled down the well-worn path of unhealthiness. “I wonder if I could eat less and lose more weight?” Thankfully, I heard a voice louder than the unhealthy whisper. This louder voice said, “Caitlin, we’re not doing this again, you’ve fought too hard against this, we can’t go there again.” Praise be to God.
I had several “come to Jesus” moments when I knew I needed to get well. This is not an issue I wanted to watch my daughters deal with. I longed to be healthy, to love my body and to develop productive coping mechanisms. I longed to be free. I wish I could remember exactly what worked, but over two years later, I’m still learning and growing. It helps to remember just how much freedom I’ve experienced from something that held me captive for so long. It is healing to tell my story.
In the past year, I have made several commitments to my body and mind.
- I will feed it good food. Food that nourishes and fuels. I will feed it enough food for what I expect it to do. Key in this food issue is a nutritional rebalancing system that I’ve been on since August. It has solidified healthy habits that I was trying to establish, and has prevented me from using busyness as an excuse to skip a meal, thus triggering more unhealthiness.
- I will workout. Ironically, running has become a safe guard for me. I love to run, I love to get faster. In order to get faster and train at a high level, I have to make sure that I eat the right things. Working out on a regular basis encourages me to fuel my body with the right food.
- I will make sure it gets adequate rest – not just hours of sleep, but recovery time. I will listen to it when it is hurting. Pain as gain is not always the case. Especially when I’ve seen how pain and discomfort can mess with my mind.
- I will recognize my triggers. As I said above, control and food/weight loss are interconnected in my mind. Even though my unhealthy relationship with food is not always related to a desire to be skinnier, hearing about fad diets or listening to someone say, “I haven’t eaten all day,” can tempt me into controling food in an unhealthy way.
- I will view it as strong. Instead of getting frustrated that I can’t run faster or that instead of running 7 miles, I had to stop and walk a couple times, I will remember how thankful I am for a body that lets me run. My legs work the way they are supposed to. My athletic muscles allowed me to enjoy a decade of soccer and how they’re enabling to me healthily cope with stress and giving me a great hobby through running.
Today after my weekly Wednesday workout, I stepped off the treadmill (2.5 miles in 20:10 thank you very much), I silently thanked my body and I silently said a prayer of thanks to God. I ate a good dinner and packed my lunch for tomorrow. I’m learning not to take my body for granted. I want to be healthy, mind, body and soul. I want to look at myself as one who is made in the image of God, giving Him the glory for everything. Just like we have to set good boundaries in relationships with others, I have to set good boundaries in my relationship with my body. I’m learning and growing and being patient along the way.
Note: This is my story regarding food and control issues. It is just that – my story. The ways that I’ve processed through unhealthy behavior are not what I would recommend for anyone and everyone. I know that this is a controversial topic. I also know sharing my story is part of my own healing.