Welcome to the weekly installment of my Freedom Friday series! This series is my attempt to openly “face my stuff” and hopefully gain a greater freedom over my tendency to “stuff my face”. You can catch up on all of my Freedom Friday posts right here.
Last week, I shared a very open and vulnerable post with you about some things I experienced growing up and how my perspective on said experiences led me to the “depths of despair” to quote one of my all-time favorite books. (Bonus points for you if you know what it is!). If you missed it, I encourage you to go back and read it, as this week is a continuation of that story.
If you recall, we left off my story when I had moved out of my home for college. I left home and went to a school 500 miles away where I knew no one. It was a Christian school, which wasn’t really significant to me at the time. I just wanted to go there because 1) it was far from home and the nightmares I wanted to escape, 2) it was an academically stringent school and I’ve always needed to be challenged intellectually, and 3) I got a free computer.
What I was really doing by going there was running away. I never really wanted to go home again. I had a plan for my life all mapped out, and it did NOT include Indiana or my immediate family. To say I was bitter would be a HUGE understatement. In all actuality, I was filled with hatred and anger and it was eating me up. I hated myself most of all.
As part of our core curriculum we were required to take 18 credits of humanities courses. The idea was to spread them out over your freshmen-junior years, one class at a time. Being the oh-so-rebellious one that I was, I decided to get them out of the way all at once. I wanted to get through the religious stuff as fast as possible so that I could get on with the real stuff.
I was a psychology major, by the way. All I ever wanted to do was become a therapist and help people. Imagine that? Me, the most messed up person I knew, wanting to help the messed up. How ironic.
At any rate, one of the classes I was required to take was Biblical Revelation. Surprisingly enough, in class of that name, I actually had to read the Bible to complete the class. My professor for that class was one of the most dynamic, entertaining, hilarious people I have ever met. He may have missed his calling in stand-up comedy.
Dr. Bibza had the amazing ability to open up the Scriptures and make them perfectly clear to me. I could not believe I had lived my whole life and not considered God. Sure, I had been in church a few times, but it was always a drag and I got made fun of there so it was an experience I had no intention of repeating. But, Dr. Bibza! It just all finally started to click for me.
As you’ll recall though, I was incredibly bitter and hard-hearted. So it took a while for the truth of the Word to get down deep in my heart. I vividly remember the day it did, though.
One night I was sitting on my bed reading through the next day’s assignment, the book of Ephesians. I could NOT believe what I was reading. No, wait, I take that back. I COULD believe it. God broke my heart that night.
As I lay there on my bed, tears streaming down my face, I just cried out to God and said, “How can I deny you any longer?” At that point, I finally submitted my heart to God. And one verse, in particular, has stuck so deeply with me since that day. My life verse:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2.13
You see, this verse to me, is a beautiful picture of my life. I can hardly think of a soul on earth that was further away than I was. I believed in God, but honestly? I hated Him. I wondered why He allowed the circumstances of my upbringing to happen to me and why He didn’t prevent it. But it was in that moment, alone in my dorm room, that God broke my heart for Him. I was brought near and I finally knew what it was like to know Hs presence in a very real way in my life.
He took my sad, wretch of a life and started to make something beautiful from it. I would love to say that after that point everything was wonderful, my past was forgiven and I never struggled with expression and I’ve been living in victory every since.
However, if that were true and it had happened like that for me, I would have no need to be writing this blog. It was precisely at this point in time, as I started to really “face my stuff” that my eating became out of control.
I will share more about how that happened next week and what God did to lead me back home.
Today, though, I wanted to share with you a book that I recently finished reading. The reason why this book is so significant for me is because it was in the reading of it that I feel like I really had a breakthrough, emotionally speaking.
In the book, All Diets Work, author Jen Brewer, Registered Dietician, shares what she thinks the problem with dieting is, 4 over-arching principles to achieve weight-loss and a healthy lifestyle, and 25 tools you can use to help you achieve healthy, lasting weight-loss. While I didn’t agree with everything in the book, I loved it nonetheless.
All Diets Work is not just a theoretical weight-loss book. Nor does it give you an unrealistic expectation for lasting weight-loss (just do THIS and you’ll lose all of the weight and keep it off-cabbage soup diet anyone?). No the book, is FULL of practical ideas and tips for how to make small, incremental changes that will last for life and lead you to a healthy weight, like this one I shared on Fecebook this morning.
The one that hit me the hardest though was the tool called “Face Your Stuff, Don’t Stuff Your Face.” Jen starts this section off with a quote, “If hunger is not the problem, then eating is not the solution.” Hmm, what a novel concept.
What I have been doing since I went away to college was to stuff down those feelings and emotions and hopes and dreams and expectations, and much like a drug addict, seek to numb myself from having to feel all of those things. You see, meeting God face-to-face has a tendency to lead a person to face all of that nastiness that has been building up for years in their lives. But I wasn’t ready for that and I told God as much. I told him under no circumstances would I EVER forgive my father. I was NOT going back.
I imagine God laughed at me. I mean, seriously? Who am I to tell Him what I am going to do? Thankfully, He was gracious with me as well.
At any rate, when I started reading this section of All Diets Work, I was completely overwhelmed as the truth smacked me in the face. I seriously felt a visceral reaction to it, like someone punched me in the stomach.
Jen says, “For some reason, many of us have learned to hide our negative emotions or experiences. When those emotions come to the surface, we try to distract ourselves by reaching for some sort of comfort food.”
She continues, “The solution to this is to allow yourself to feel emotions…The key is to recognize the emotion before the food enters the mouth, and then STOP. Create a space for yourself to digest the emotion, instead of forcing yourself to digest the food. Think about it; feel it. Let yourself cry, or scream, or talk, or walk, or write.Whatever you need to do to let the emotion go. Let it in, let it out, let it go and move on. Break the emotional tie to food.”
When I read this, I was just totally overwhelmed. The question popped into my head, no doubt prompted by the Holy Spirit, “Where did I get this idea that it was wrong for me to FEEL?” For years I have been numbing the pain of my past. And while I did get to a point of forgiveness (more on that next week), I always felt like I couldn’t share my story because since I forgave, then I didn’t have a right to hurt anymore.
It wasn’t until I read this part of this book and really realized what I was doing that I knew I needed to get some courage and start sharing my story. I needed for it to be ok for me to feel those feelings, otherwise I would always be caught in this cycle of feeding my feelings. Just because I had experienced forgiveness, does not mean that there was no longer any pain. And for years, in my warped sense of thinking, I have tried to literally stuff those things down because I was ashamed of them.
Last week, when I wrote that post, was a very emotionally taxing day. There were lots of tears, lots of prayers and lots of conversations happening with those closest to me. But what there WASN’T was running to the fridge for food. This is HUGE for me.
I have finally, after years of self-medicating with food, started to grieve what I lost as a child and come to a place of acceptance. And it was all because of a couple of paragraphs in a weight-loss book. It’s amazing what God can use to speak to a person’s heart.
Would you like the opportunity to win a copy of this book? Of course you would! Jen has graciously provided me a copy to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment on this post.
Jen has also graciously offered a discount to all of my readers. Her book normally retails for $14.99. Jen is giving my readers a discount of $4.99 off retail, plus free shipping. All you need to do if you want to order the book, is send a payment via PayPal ($10) to Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org. I did see that you can purchase the Kindle version on Amaon for $7.99, so if you prefer that format that would save you a couple of dollars. If you end up winning the contest, I will refund you!
The fine print: This contest is open to US residents only, ages 18 and over. The contest will run until next Friday, March 9, 2012 at 12:00 am Eastern Time, at which point I will randomly select a winner and contact the winner via e-mail. Good luck!
Are you an emotional eater?
Have you broken out of the prison of emotional eating and allowed yourself to start to FEEL and HEAL? I’d love it if you shared your story in the comments!