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Help! I know my compulsive eating can’t be pleasing to God!

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"I feel like this is the major cross I've been given for my life, and I am so unwilling to shoulder it..."

Dear Katrina,

I’ve struggled with compulsive eating all my life. After years of diets, yo-yo weight loss and gain, in-patient and outpatient therapy, and prayer, I had bariatric surgery this summer. But even now, my eating is still out of control and it’s still hard to lose weight. I only had the surgery because of my health — I have to admit that at 54, I’ve finally found a measure of peace with myself and how I look, and I’m not that invested in weight loss for its own sake. While it’s nice to feel at peace with myself, this makes the struggle to lose weight even harder in some ways.

All that said, I know that my eating habits aren’t pleasing to the Lord. How can I eat to please Him? Especially when I don’t feel motivated, not even by health. My health issues are under control with medication for now, but I know long-term I still need to lose the weight.

I feel like this is the major cross I’ve been given for my life, and I am so unwilling to shoulder it. I would really appreciate your advice. Thank you,

“Anna”

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Dear Anna,

Throughout my life, I’ve had my own struggles with weight and also just like you, I thought I had made peace with my appearance. I suspect, similar to me as well, you may be confusing body acceptance with apathy.

When I was at “peace” my attitude was more like “meh, this is just how I am and it’s easier to deal with it than try otherwise.” I stopped caring and just gave up, which isn’t the same thing as peace at all.  Your lack of motivation makes me think this might be the case. You can’t say you found peace then admit you know your habits are compulsive and spiritually crippling.

I don’t know what your relationship is with food but my suggestion is to speak to your doctor. Your doctor can give you a referral to a therapist who can diagnose if your compulsive eating is a food addiction or some other symptom of a larger picture. I know two people who have had weight loss surgery and each one admitted that the surgery only addressed the issue of weight but never the root cause of the weight gain — which can be genetic, an undiagnosed medical condition, or psychological issues. Expressing your concerns with your doctor is the first place and best to start.

Physical health should be treated like our spiritual life and well being … in that both should be attended to daily in order to grow and improve. I know God doesn’t care if we are skinny or fat but he does care is we abuse ourselves. He also cares if our habits and attitudes impede us from fulfilling our responsibilities. You didn’t say, but if you have a family you have a duty to stay as healthy as possible for them. Just as I have a duty to try and not eat myself to death because I have a son and an ailing mother who both depend on me to care for them.    

We’ve all been given crosses to bear. Most struggle silently, whereas obesity and gluttony makes itself known. We literally wear our cross as excess weight for all to see. For that reason alone, issues with weight and food compulsions are especially difficult crosses. I have to remind myself often that the heavier the cross the greater the chance to grow in holiness. It’s a difficult situation to be in but uniquely rewarding in that way.     

I don’t believe you’re unwilling to shoulder this cross. If you were unwilling you wouldn’t being reaching out for advice and admitting that you desire to please God. It just sounds like to me you need a Simon of Cyrene to come and lift the weight off your shoulders for a bit.  Your Simon can be found in support groups, online communities, your family or best friend, your doctor or a counselor, and most importantly in prayer and adoration. Give it all to the Lord.

Suggested links:

“Gluttony, Addiction, and Not Listening to Prayer,” Jennifer Fulwiler

Overeaters Anonymous

To Fight Obesity, Let’s Call Gluttony What it Is: A Disease of the Soul”, Zac Alstin

The Intrinsic Disorder of Me

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