One of my favourite quotes is by Zora Neale Hurston and it goes: There are years that ask questions and there are years that answer. I am praying that 2023 is one of the years that answers…
A sister-friend has a small ministry she calls “Jesus Parties”. She, like many of us, grew up in a society that has likened sin to fun and Christ to boring. She felt called to re-create the jubilation and joyful gathering of the saints the book of Revelations said would come. I attended my first “Jesus Party” in December of 2022. I’m going to be honest and say it could have be better but for a young initiative, one that was so needed I did appreciate the effort. I appreciated that this was just a space for healthy fun, we need more of such spaces. Spaces where teens can play games that don’t involve “I dare you to kiss so and so”, spaces with more creative recreation that is not just eating and drinking.
But that’s not the point of this blog. At that event, the Holy Spirit seemed to take over a professional acquaintance, we went from fun to prophesy in a quick minute. This acquaintance- a guy who knows very little about me- knelt at my feet, got up and then said: “I keep getting the word self-love for you, I don’t understand it. I wonder if I heard well”.
I, an overthinker with an analytical mind, had raised an eyebrow at this guy kneeling at my feet. My first thought was “Why me? Is this necessary?” I recall praying as he knelt that, God better prove his actions sincere. When he later mentioned hearing that word for me, I knew that he didn’t know me well enough to have connived that word that spoke of my inner turmoil. I took the word and put it away. I already knew I needed to love myself. The issue has always been how.
Writing the rest of this is going to be difficult so perhaps I’ll make a vlog to compliment this piece…
Now that I’ve made the video, with me in good lighting, looking neat, with no make-up but still lip gloss, and my large form not that apparent I can imagine some people will be like “What insecurity does this one even have”. The thing about insecurities is that they aren’t entirely logical. But they like hope are hard to kill. My insecurity is not done away with by dressing up and looking good, because even then, I have enough life experience that affirms that at my best dressed/most conventionally attractive I was not enough for those who I needed to love me.
Learning to love myself again, to love myself better goes beyond loving how I look when I dress up, to loving myself in between looks. It means knowing at my worst I’m still worthy, just as worthy as when I am all dolled up. It means deciding to give myself a whole love, or to try to give that to myself each day.
Well eating disorders can be understood as psychologically-based abnormal eating behaviours that negatively affect a person’s physical or mental health. Basically, ones eating and overall relationship with food is affected by a mental disorder and that in turn further affects them physically and mentally. I first came across the concept of eating disorders at age 10/11 while I was in the U.S. and watched classmates stick spoons down their throats to throw up what they ate at lunch. Weeks later the school counselor would have a talk with us about bulimia. I recall thinking “oh it’s a bad thing, but it’s an effective thing” and I wished I could try it. I couldn’t. It’s really very hard for me to throw up lol I sure tried. In that setting my knowledge of eating disorders was limited to Bulimia and Anorexia, I didn’t think of my emotional over-eating as an eating disorder. That wasn’t focused on.
It’s only as an adult, actually only in 2018 as I lost 25kgs that I realized I have had an eating disorder for most of my life. As I started a fitness journey in the hope of reaching an ideal ‘pre-baby’ weight I realized most of my hunger wasn’t physical but psychological and that my eating habits were abnormal because my appetite was often skewed from depression.
And by abnormal eating habits, I don’t mean only over-eating or craving sugar… the abnormality is also evidenced in my penchant for fasting, and feeling like I’m more “worthy” in a state of fasting.
As the definition above states eating disorders are mental disorders which further cause physical and mental health issues- physical issues like being overweight and all the complications that come with that, mental issues like body dysmorphia and the increased self-hate that comes with that.
I don’t know what ‘developed’ it per se. But one of my earliest childhood memories is stealing cubes of sugar and sucking on them in a house where I was being maltreated between the ages of 3-6. The sugar made me feel good, and I would go for more. It wasn’t filling so I know it wasn’t hunger. I’d say that was the beginning of my binge eating/filling up a void with food.
Well, directly. My binge eating is a coping mechanism for depression gone wrong. It’s the fact that I’m depressed or have unresolved issues which lead to finding comfort in food in the first place. But also it is what I’ve imbibed through socialization, what my mind believes healthy and desirable looks like that contributes to more abnormal eating via prolonged/unnecessary fasts or being hard on myself for simply eating.
Yes. I thought I had overcome my emotional eating when I committed to getting ‘fit’ for the dream/goal of being a mother/starting a family. Between 2017 and 2020 I denied myself comfort in food for the most part. Even when I caved, and had an episode of binge-eating, I would fast and re-enter ketosis and ‘get back on track’. What was really happening was merely a shift in the type of abnormal eating/unhealthy relationship with food. It is by end of 2020, when even after losing over 25kg my body dysmorphia had increased and then dealing with one of the worst episodes of depression in 2021 and finally resigning to finding comfort in food that I realized that I had not ‘solved’ the problem. Just changed the problem. But it is worth noting that emotional eating is just that- emotional. So there are good days when I’m not binge eating not as affected by eating. But also suffering from the effects of binge-eating colours all aspects of your life. I began fasting as a spiritual exercise way before my fitness journey and things like One Meal A Day (OMAD? And Intermittent fasting with an app was a thing. So now, you wonder do you want to fast because you want the spiritual benefits of the fast- more sensitive to the spirit, or if your mind pushing you to fast because you know it’ll get you into ketosis or you feel guilty for eating something you supposedly ‘shouldn’t have’.
They’re like an addiction you can’t treat because what you’re addicted to is necessary. Unlike someone who’s addicted to smoking and can be told to ‘never buy cigarettes again’, or a recovering alcoholic is able to say I’m 2 years without tasting liquor… that is not the case for those who suffer from eating disorders because food is also vital to life. In fact, food is often entertainment in our culture, so healing an eating disorder is even harder. Did you know if you eat all your favourite things until you feel sick you temporarily forget another kind of hunger, the hunger in your heart? And after a while, it’s hard to tell if your body is hungry or if what you’re yearning for is something else. And sometimes, even when you know the difference, you still choose to eat because well at least you can give yourself something, a distraction from what you’re unable to give yourself.
I also wish people knew that praising someone for losing weight by all means often affirms the mental disorder. Just as my takeaway from a lesson on bulimia was ‘oh so it’s bad but it works’, so too my takeaway from people praising my regularly beating myself up along my fitness journey was “I’m better this way, denying myself is a good thing”.