This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 2: ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.”
To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.
Don’t get hung up on whether your relationship with food is an “addiction.” There is no need to engage a discussion of withdrawal symptoms and tolerance levels at this point. Regardless, the dynamics of an addiction can provide us with good questions to assess the severity of our unhealthy relationships with food. Gregory Jantz in Hope, Help, & Healing for Eating Disorders (p. 82-83; bold text only) identifies eight parallels between addiction and disordered eating.
1. Both promise freedom but deliver slavery.
Do you feel like your eating pattern has provided what you hoped it would when you established it? Were things supposed to be “better” or “happier” than this? Gluttony (obsession with food), like any sin, fails to keep its promises. Personifying your relationship with food and being angry with it is one way to better come to grips with how sin lies.
What are some of the promises that your eating patterns have left unfulfilled?
2. Both are progressive.
Your relationship with food did not begin where it is now. Whatever unhealthy roles we ask food to play in our lives grow until we intentionally change them. That is why we have moments of shock when we realize things have gotten “this bad.” It is important not to fall back into denial during these moments of grace.
What are some “moments of clarity” when you realize how things were worse than you realized?
3. Both are deceptive.
We can’t believe our own eyes and thoughts are caught up in destructive eating patterns. Whether we’re telling ourselves we’ll just have a few or saying our emaciated body looks fat, we have a hard time being honest with ourselves (much less anyone else) when we have an unhealthy relationship with food.
What distortions have you noticed in your own thinking and perception about food and weight?
4. Both steal intimacy.
The less honest we are with ourselves the more threatening it is to be close with people who love us enough to be honest with us. It’s not that we don’t want closeness; we do. We hate being alone. We just fear the implications of being more fully-accurately known. Whether it’s isolation or superficiality, an unhealthy relationship with food tempts us to withdraw from people who really care.
How have you noticed your relationships becoming more distant as your disordered eating became more pronounced?
5. Both promote shame.
Whether it is self-loathing or self-deprecating humor, an unhealthy relationship with food will not let you be nice to you. The more secrets you have the more shame you’ll feel. The more we try to distract ourselves from life or control life the more helpless we will feel.
How have your eating patterns contributed to a sense of shame?
6. Both produce spiritual isolation.
What we do or don’t eat will never make us closer to God. But if we’re trying to manage life vis-à-vis what we do or don’t eat, then these patterns will definitely make us feel further from God. The less we trust God with what matters most to us, the less relevant God feels for our life. Disordered eating is often strong evidence of trying to manage life without God.
How have your eating patterns added to the sense that God doesn’t care or isn’t willing to engage with you?
7. Both cause physiological changes.
Our habits change our bodies. We will provide a more detailed discussion of this later, but for now ask yourself the question, “How have my eating patterns changed my body in unhealthy ways?” As you reflect on this question focus more on health matters than body figure.
8. Both lead us to accept fear and anxiety as a normal part of daily life.
The more we manipulate life with destructive patterns the scarier it is to think of engaging life in healthy ways. The idea of eating what “experts” call “healthy” seems frighteningly unrealistic when that has not been our lifestyle.
What parts of a healthy relationship with food causes you to feel upset (anxious, offended, defeated, etc…)?
Another aspect of an unhealthy relationship with food can be the behavioral pattern of weighing yourself. The number on the scale can easily become our glory or our condemnation. In reality, it’s neither; it’s just a temporal fact. Here are some recommendations to help you break a “scale addiction.”
- If your struggle is with anorexia or bulimia, only weight yourself with your physician or counselor.
- Only weigh yourself one time per week; short-term fluctuations don’t mean as much as we feel they do.
- When you weigh, always weigh at the same time of day; this provides a more accurate comparison.
- If you have been practicing good body stewardship, don’t weigh. The number is not the most important thing.
- If you are not emotionally prepared to be disappointed, don’t weigh.
- When you like the number, don’t allow that joy to supplant satisfaction with being a good steward of your body.
Read I Corinthians 10:23-24. One of the classic defenses of addictive behavior is the question “What is so wrong with [blank]?” and the blank is filled with a minimized description of the addictive behavior. This passage, which is about food, answers that question with nothing and everything. There may be nothing technically wrong with the behavior, but if it is destroying or controlling you, then it is against God’s design for your life. A key litmus test is how this behavior impacts relationships (v. 24). Does it facilitate more meaningful friendship? Is it a blessing you would want for others? Does it lead to you being more authentic? Does it lead to you being more vain (self-centered) or caring (other-minded)?
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Disordered Eating” post which address other facets of this subject.