Hi. Have we met formally? I’m Erin. I’m a food addict.
It seems like I’m having gallbladder problems. I say “seems.” It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, acts like a duck, and responds to dietary changes like a duck, but they still want to ultrasound the bejezus out of me before cutting me open. My reactive airways do not take kindly to the general anesthetic process, so, inconvenience and waiting and uncertainty aside, I can respect that.
Assuming my gallbladder is the source of the quacking, there’s no denying that I put myself here. I’ve now been obese for nearly half of my life, and mildly overweight for much of the preceding.
During the “much of the preceding,” I lived in a world where food was both god and devil to the one side of the family raising me.
Out of one side of their mouths: Eat this. Eat that. Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that. You don’t wanna be fat. Fat is ugly. Nobody wants a fat girl.
From the other side: What do you mean, you don’t want to eat all these fatty, sugary foods? You think you’re better than us? You’re one of us, so you can’t say no. Bad food makes bad people, but isn’t being bad so much more fun–not to mention delicious?
I was also put through some rather barbaric early ’80s food allergy testing and resulting elimination diet. Why? Because I was a pain in the ass–placed by God with people who really don’t like having their asses pained. I mean, really don’t. I don’t know if it was just the prevailing wisdom of the time or the family-of-origin culture coming from that one side of the family, but I was fed a diet devoid of sugar, dairy, chicken, chocolate, peanuts, and soy but full of “bad food makes you a bad person that nobody likes.”
Funny enough “good food” wasn’t making me that much more likable… but at least I was losing weight! Really, those extra 5-10 pounds were really making me so sexually unappealing, after all. Nobody likes a fat ten year-old, after all.
When the crazy diet showed that, even without the sugar I was still a pain in the ass, the food restrictions were mysteriously if gradually abandoned.
The “bad food = bad person=bad food=fun” thing sure stayed.
Back to my current innards. I made the mistake of venting about my likely gallbladder probs on my personal Facebook page. I got some sympathy and prayers–yay! I got a couple of recipes–nice. I got at least one wisecrack–Hey, you’re my kind of commenter!
I also got a lot of unsolicited advice. Eat this. Eat that. Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that.
Sounds familiar. Painfully familiar.
I am in some level of pain just about nonstop. That pain is being somewhat relieved by some inconvenient, bland dietary changes. At first I bristled at the inconvenience, the deprivation.
I soon realized how good God is. Thankfully. I always want to fast for Him and, food addict that I am, just never, ever, ever succeed. Not for very long. I’ve tried this. I’ve tried that. I’ve even tried this other thing. None of it ever “took.” Not even when I did it for God.
Now I’m living my penance for my gluttony, a penance as well for the people whose sins lured me into this addiction: a penance chosen for me by a God who knows I want to please Him but knows I’m too weak to choose and stick with a penance on my own. I am miserable, and God is so, so good. So good.
Now it’s my time to ask for mercy, for myself and all the other fat girls, fat guys, and food addicts out there.
Look, I know those people want to be helpful. You’ve found something that helped you. That’s awesome. Praise the Lord. But before you offer someone suffering the effects of addiction unsolicited advice, take a moment to think about what that person might hear.
“Eat this. Make yourself less of a pain in the ass.”
“Don’t eat that. Make yourself more appealing to me.”
“I don’t care about you. I care about how you look in my eyes.”
“Your mind doesn’t matter to me. Just your appearance.”
“I don’t like you the way you are.”
“You are not adequate to me.”
“It’s not difficult. It’s easy.”
“All I see of you is your fat.”
“Your good qualities will never overshadow your sins.”
“All you are to me is your addiction.”
Oh, and from the people selling something:
Again, I know you mean well. I really do. At least I hope you do.
encourage you implore you to pray before you advise, to have mercy on the addict’s pain before you advise, to seek to understand what the addict–what that particular addict might be suffering–before you offer unsolicited advice.
Maybe take a moment to realize that you can’t possibly know the pain that drove that person to seek solace in substance rather than in the God of all consolation.
Yes, Admonish the Sinner is a Spiritual Act of Mercy, and gluttony of any kind is a sin, but there’s a reason there’s a whole lot written on the art of fraternal correction and the conditions for offering this act of mercy are quite limited.
I do covet your prayers. I am offering my currently imposed penance up for not only my (numerous, visible) sins, but also for your invisible ones.