I’m not a 1-cookie girl. I wish I was, but I’m not. I eat when I’m stressed and I turn to food when I want to run away from my problems. It’s hard to admit it. You may believe me, but you might say it’s no big deal. It’s easy to minimize when everyone has to eat and overeating is so wide-spread. How can it be a problem when it’s so “normal”?
If you are struggling with overeating or similar issue, know that there is a way out. I am sharing my story to bring you hope that you are not alone and you can overcome this! You can be free, and freedom is so sweet.
My Eating Problem
Many who know me will be surprised to hear that I have an eating problem. I have always been the skinniest one in my family, and I’m what you’d call a “health nut.” I’ve always done sports and I like to run. You may think I’m just a “skinny girl” who doesn’t understand your struggles. Maybe that is true. I don’t understand them all, but I know how it feels inside. For years I’ve been broken.
I’ve always loved food and been a big snack-er. I have a sweet tooth and over-indulge in sugar when I get a chance. When I was 16, I found out I had a severe gluten sensitivity. This ended up being a mixed blessing, because it drastically limited my options and forced me to eat more whole foods. My subsequent struggles with health have sparked a passion for nutrition and have helped me keep my weight in control. The seeds of my addiction were always there, but I didn’t really notice a problem until about 7 years ago when a good friend keyed me into the fact that I eat sugar EVERY day. It seemed so weird to her. About 6 years ago, I returned from an extended mission to Japan. I was re-adjusting to “normal” life and found myself depressed and stressed. I had very few close friends and no one I trusted enough to confide in. I kept myself busy, but there’s always time to eat. I gained over 15 pounds in about 2 months. I was out of control. I felt trapped and depressed in a downward spiral of self-deprecation.
Towards the end of this 3-month period, I was struck with a series of illnesses and an accident (also a mixed blessing) which left me nauseous for weeks. I was able to quickly lose the 15 extra pounds and found myself in good shape in time for my wedding. After getting married my mental-health improved dramatically, but I again suffered with some extended health problems where I couldn’t eat much. My health problems kept me thin and pushed my eating problem out of the way.
After these struggles subsided, my problem resurfaced and grew daily. I continued to struggle inwardly with feelings of doubt and self-worth. I felt like such a hypocrite trying to get healthy and teach my children to eat well only to sneak off after bedtime to eat cookies or binge on hot chocolate. I tried to control myself by not allowing sugar in the house. Still, my life felt out of control. I couldn’t say “no.” When I felt stressed or discouraged, my mind would wander to the bag of chocolate chips in the cupboard. I would say “no” and try to distract myself, but the image kept haunting me until I went to the cupboard for a handful. Logically it should end there, but it didn’t. As soon as the chocolate chips reached my stomach I needed more or a different snack. On and on it went until I felt stuffed. Then I felt gross from all the junk and the guilt would set-in. I’d feel terrible and worthless. Disappointed in myself for not being stronger. I’d vow to do better next time. I’d make specific plans on how I would suppress the next temptation. Maybe I’d go a day or two or four or maybe two weeks with a few minor slip-ups, but I never felt free. It’s exhausting fighting the urge to eat and it never seemed to get any easier.
My Recovery Journey
I tried reaching out to people, but no one seemed to believe me or know how to help. I visited a therapist and went to a couple OA (Over eater’s Anonymous) meetings, but nothing really seemed to work. Perhaps I wasn’t really ready. Then I found the LDS Addiction Recovery Program booklet and took the first step:
“Honesty: Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.”
Things got better. I made some strides to overcome my addiction, but progress was slow and I couldn’t bring myself to attend the meeting–how embarrassing! So, I made progress and then I slipped back into it. Several weeks ago I decided to go to the recovery meetings. Some gentle whispering (from the Holy Spirit, my conscience, gut, inner-compass, whatever you like to call it) convinced me that it was time to make the time-sacrifice and go. I drug myself to the first meeting. Actually, my husband had to take me, because I was too much of an emotional wreck to drive there alone. I cried almost the entire time and begged the mediators to tell me the secret to success. They didn’t really have a hard and fast answer, but they were loving and offered hope.
The next day a miracle happened. It clicked–God opened my heart and my eyes to my answer. The key that was missing was how to rely on him. I had faith and I was praying. I was trying to trust him, but I didn’t know how. In the past, I felt like I was running the race, but there were so many logs in the road! I just couldn’t figure out how to jump over the logs. I was persistent. I kept getting up and running the race, but it was discouraging because I knew there would be more logs and I knew that I would trip over them. God showed me how to jump. I needed to hold his hands, because the logs are too big for me to get over on my own. I cannot express to you how much peace and joy and happiness I have felt since I made this turning point in my recovery. I have been absolutely filled with hope, and I know that it’s possible. Sometimes I am still too stubborn to hold his hands and I fall on my face, but I’ve learned how to jump!
I’ve learned that recovery is truly a spiritual process in which you learn to rely on a power higher than your own. Since then, the journey hasn’t been easy. I’m still figuring things out one step at a time. There are days and weeks that I have plunged back into my problems, but I have hope that I can get back out. The struggle is not easy, but it’s worth it. Just last week I was crying almost every night trying to get through. I broke down three times in one day trying to overcome a personal weakness. It’s been hard, but I still have hope. I look back and see that every day, even the hard days, are happier than the ones before. I feel free.
I’ve come to know that Power that is literally able to take away the temptation and make me stronger. It’s not willpower, or holding on as long as you can, or finding a way to avoid stress, or limiting all of the “triggers.” It’s about finding God and learning how to trust him. Everyone’s journey is different. Lessons learned will be different for everyone, but I hope that my sharing can help you. I will share some of my experiences with the steps in the coming weeks and I encourage you to step with me if you can. The steps are great for everyone, because we all have problems even if they aren’t related to food. I hope you’ll take my hand and seek the healing and hope that I’ve found.