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.
It’s the Year of Mercy. I’ve blogged a lot lately about how much more I need to live mercy in my daily life, in my reactions to others.
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.
Thank you to Live the Fast and Neil Combs of A Body in Prayer for inadvertently throwing the above quotes into my path just when I needed them.
I don’t know you but this piece resonated with me so much. So very much. I am dealing with health issues directly tied to my weight and diet. I will be praying for you and if you think of it send one up for me please, Lord knows I need them all right now.
You and me both! Thanks so much for commenting. I will most certainly keep you in my prayers and my penances, especially as we enter Lent!
Ah food… precious food. My addiction led me today to think Gluten wasn’t REALLY a problem for me and that I could eat it – must be just dairy that makes me feel like Violet from Willy Wonka. fyi – i was wrong (I usually am). Thanks Erin for your honesty, sense of humor and wisdom!! Hi Erin. I am Allison and I am a food addict (too) … glad God put us on this journey together. It is good that we not be alone!!! #covetedprayersontheway
Glad we’re in this together, too! Not glad we’re in it, but if it weren’t this, it would’ve been some other cross.
I’ve spent the better part of a day thinking about how I should comment. I know gall bladder issues. I know weight issues. I know God-chosen penance. I’m still flummoxed because I can’t wrap it all up in a snarky comment. But I’m now pretty certain who my sounding board/first beta reader will be for my novel that’s going to deal with all the fat issues.
BTW, yours was my favorite advice: sniffing the breath mint.
You have never been a pain in the ass to me! I find you very appealing. I like you just the way you are. You’re not just adequate, you are special and precious. Dieting is hard, but you are strong. All I see is what a blessing you are to me. I can’t see your sins because the Light of Christ in you shines so brightly. You are not your addiction. You are a vessel of the Holy Spirit and your struggles are between God and you alone.
Thank you, Karen. You made me cry the good cry!
You have never been a pain in the ass to me! I find you very appealing and I like you just the way you are. You’re not just adequate, you are special and precious. Dieting is hard but you are strong. All I see is what a blessing you are to me. I can’ see you sins because the Light of Christ in you is so bright. You are not your addiction. You are a vessel of the Holy Spirit and your struggles are between you and God alone.
Erin, I’m just getting to this, and I’m going to add you to my intentions. Talk with St. Charles Borromeo (patron of stomach/intestinal issues). I have no dietary advice except to say listen to the doctors and God and know that food doesn’t make you any kind of person.
Unless you insist on telling me kale shakes are the secret to dietary salvation. Then you’re a bad person. 😉