The struggle I have with emotional eating is a bizarre one, because I'm rarely actually hungry. Instead of a pit in my stomach, there is one somewhere in my heart. It needs a distraction. It needed filling. It needs comforting.
For whatever reason – I'm still not entirely sure why – turning to food as a form of comfort is one that seems so natural to me. It could be because food did indeed provide me with that sort of comfort growing up. I remember coming home from school every day to a lovingly prepared snack by my mother. We'd sit at the kitchen table or plop in front of the television with cookies, or cheese and crackers. My mom loved me and my sister. There is no question about that. When we were quite young we'd bake just about anything as a fun mother-daughters activity.
My maternal grandmother (Mammina as we called her) loved on us in the same way. Even as an adult woman in my late twenties, I'd head to Mammina's for afternoon tea and she'd have a massive spread of home-baked muffins or cookies, then some store bought biscuits along with other goodies and tea. I'd go to her place promising myself that I'd just have one muffin, or maybe two cookies. But by the time I'd leave her apartment I'd usually have downed the entire plate. Mammina maybe had one muffin, and the rest ended up in my belly, and a belly-ache to go along with it. Why? It's hard to say "no" to your grandmother!
In university, I remember my roommate and I ending our stressful days by curling up on the couch with dill pickle potato chips and raspberry sorbet. Or when living on my own, I'd wrap up a tough week with a few glasses of wine – by myself. Not only was it food, it was also alcohol. Can anyone say danger!?!
Or living at a mission organization and we received free bread and dum, dum, dum….pastries from a bakery. The bag of sweets would end up on the counter for anyone to riffle through. And of course, emotions and spiritual confusion swirling around leads to scones being scarfed down, or chocolate croissants crammed into an already-full-with-dinner tummy.
But what does God say about my relationship with food? My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63 verse 5 (NIV)
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55 verse 2 (NIV)
In trying to loosen the grip emotional eating has on me, I've recognized other things I don't really want to let go of in my pursuit of a deeper relationship with God. I think the biggest fear is losing myself, and losing the success-filled future I desperately long for. I 'labour on what does not satisfy' as a way to gain acceptance, gratitude and a belonging with others.
I'm a 'yes' person so that I'll feel valued by getting a lot accomplished. But in the end that doesn't fill up one's soul. I often worry that in surrendering I will lose it all, that I will forever give up and lose long-held dreams or desires and lose the things that make me – me. I yearn for a deeper intimacy with my Abba Father, I long and crave for that fullness, I know deep down, only He could provide.
So here are the tough questions I've asked myself; perhaps they'll resonate with you too:
What consumes my thoughts and my time? What do I crave more than Jesus or time with God? What do I talk about with my friends or family?
I recognize that I want more of God. I've been so hungry and empty emotionally and spiritually that I could not fill it with food or pursuits – I need to fill it with God. Even as the Psalmist writes, God's love is "better than life."
And so, here I go. I'm on a continuing pursuit to satisfy my real hunger, not with a hearty, multi-course feast nor a career or status-boosting appearance, but in a fully satisfying relationship with Christ.
Lisa Goetze grew up near Toronto, Canada, where she worked as a writer for two national news broadcasts. She now serves full-time at Youth With A Mission in Brisbane.
Lisa Goetze's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/lisa-goetze.html