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Amy’s Story

Tell me, Brian, how did you overcome your drinking problem?

Total abstinence. It’s the only way.

How about you, Eddie, how did you give up smoking when you decided to break the habit?

I banned cigarettes from my life and took up the peppermint pattern.

And you, Carrie, how did you manage to gain control over your problem with overeating?

I did the same thing, Anabel. Banned food. Total abstinence. I’ve been problem free for three years now. It really works!

Hardly! One of the most difficult "flesh" patterns to deal with is overeating. You can’t do the peppermint routine or apply the just-don’t-take-the-first-sip remedy. As an overeater, you, of necessity, "fall off the wagon" at least three times a day– and commitment to total abstinence is not a good option. True, the problem would be defunct, but so would you!

You know, running the rapids of the Colorado River sounds exciting. I can read a lot of books about it, watch some movies and visit the area, but it would probably be a lot more insightful to talk to someone who has really performed this awesome feat.

There are thousands of people who struggle with their weight. For a small minority of them, it’s a physical disorder. They work with their doctor to deal with the problem. For most of them, it’s a pattern they have developed in their life for meeting circumstances. It’s to this group that I’m writing. I could give you my thoughts, but let’s talk to someone who knows about — from experience — "running the white water" of overeating.

Can you put your finger on the time when you started drastically overeating, Amy?

Definitely. It was when I got married.

And do you know why you did this?

Another definitely. I was very insecure … in many ways. I was insecure in my ability to perform as a wife; insecure in my husband’s acceptance of me and his love for me; insecure in acceptance of myself.

Do you know where this insecurity came from?

May I say "definitely" again? I was sexually, verbally and emotionally abused by the men in my life as a child. So, I was scared of men … scared of sex … scared that I couldn’t converse with a man in more than monosyllabic words. I guess I would have to say I was less scared of my husband than other men, so I said "yes" when he asked me to marry him. Marriage would bring security … I thought.

Was your husband tender to you? Did he meet your "love" needs? Did he know how to interact with you? Was he secure in his role?

Heavens, no! His closet is crammed full of skeletons just like mine. He’s got walls that you wouldn’t believe! So, eating quickly became a comfort for me. It was a pleasant experience in the middle of a lot of unpleasant experiences. It filled the void for tenderness and attentiveness that was there because of my poor relationship with my husband. And I viewed it as a reward. Of course, I gave the reward to myself, but everyone needs just a little encouragement, Anabel. I wasn’t getting any from him, so I found a way to give it to me … from myself. Better than nothing … a coping mechanism, right?

I understand. Let me ask kind of a mundane question, but I’m interested. Do you enjoy shopping?

Not for myself. I go to the Fulher Fashions for Larger Women store. I don’t mind anymore. I lied about where I bought the dress the first time I went to the Fulher Fashions though.

What about your self-image?

It was all right. You see, when I stood in front of the mirror, I never looked below my shoulders, so I never saw anything wrong. I refused to accept the problem. I know. I was in denial, but don’t a lot of people deny their problems? How many face the mirror and say, "You are a despicable gossip and your temper is vile." Or, "You are the most conceited person I have ever known, and you are indulged and selfish." It’s just that my problem was so evident to everyone. You’ve heard the saying about the person who is overweight? What you do in private is there for everyone to see in public.

How about your family? Your husband? Your kids? What was their attitude?

Oh, I have missed so many "fun" times with my boys, Anabel. I was too fat to go with them. I couldn’t roller skate or climb the hill. I couldn’t play catch or ride bikes. I baked cookies and pies and then I ate them. But I can’t think about that. They’re ashamed of me … not that they tell me that, but I can sense that they are embarrassed when I’m around, and they never invite their friends over to the house.

Let me interrupt. So you get emotionally upset when you think about the boys — right? What do you do to alleviate that emotional distress?

You know what I do. I head for my "comfort zone" in the kitchen. I do what I learned to do when I got married and was emotionally distressed … I eat. It takes my mind off the unpleasant things … it’s something nice that’s going to happen to me. It eases the hurt, Anabel. It makes me forget. It’s my source of comfort. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that I’ve lived with through many, many diets and downtimes.

Do you have any problem with being in a group of people?

I’m self-conscious in a group; and, depending on the group, I’ll try to fit my personality to what they want me to be. I can go from being effervescent to hiding in the restroom in a matter of minutes.

You asked about my husband’s attitude, Anabel. It’s negative. He tries to hide it, but there was one time when he just couldn’t and I shall never forget it. We had gone out for the evening to eat … without the children. A special time. I was dieting, without much success, but I was really trying, so instead of ordering a steak, the specialty of the house, I just ordered a salad. My husband looked at me and all of the disgust and disappointment that had been building for years was in his face. How many times had he chosen a special place to go, wanting to share the "steak" … only to discover that this was the day I had decided to start another diet or to "really control my eating." I was devastated ….

Do you try to please your husband or work at your marriage?

I’ve been married 28 years and just in the last six months I have begun to realize that I’m not the wife my husband needs me to be. I’ve centered in on how hurt and rejected and neglected I’ve been and haven’t given much thought to him and his needs. I had never really labeled my overeating as self-centered and selfish. I justified it as a survival technique. I’m seeing it for what it is … and I hate it. It’s no fun being fifty or seventy — or more — pounds heavier than I should be.

For all of these years I have been communicating to him, "I do not trust you. You’re a man and men are no good. You say you love me, but you certainly don’t act like you do."

And, I don’t trust God. I’ve put Him in the same category as all the other men in my life. I can’t trust God to give me what I need –I can’t trust Him to be my source of comfort and love –I can’t trust Him to give me the discipline to take care of my body instead of abusing it like I do.

And Anabel, I believe this pattern stifles any God-given gift. I’m too preoccupied with myself to be obedient when God tells me to do something. So I don’t walk in the Spirit. My "flesh" is controlling me all the way … what I say, where I go, my friends, my ministry, my thought life. There’s one thing that controls me … food.

* * * * * * * *

There are probably as many reasons for building a pattern of overeating as there are people who struggle with it– but there is one permanent answer for successfully dealing with the pattern. Just as there is one permanent answer for the pattern of depression or inferiority or anger or any other pattern that controls you. That answer is this: When you became a Christian, Jesus Christ came to live inside of you. He, and He alone, can live through you to overcome your unique flesh problem. It means that you are now totally accepted and unconditionally loved because of who you are IN Christ Jesus.

And just what does that mean?

It means that you are the temple of God and that you will not deliberately destroy that temple by abusing it through overeating.

It means that Christ living in you will say "no" to the thoughts that lead you to the chocolate chip cookies or to the donut shop when you’re all alone.

It means that He wants to be the power that controls this desire.

It means that you are a visible picture to the world of either a Christ who is competent to control or an impotent Christ who cannot control.

It means that you have been set free from the events of the past that have programmed you … no matter how tragic they might have been.

It means that you don’t have to fill a "love" void any longer. Jesus loves you more than you ever dreamed anyone could love you! Walk in that love. Let it fill your mind and flow through your body.

It means that you don’t have to perform for people anymore. You don’t have to try to be what they want you to be. You ARE accepted — totally — by Christ.

It means that Christ is to be your source of comfort, strength, peace, refuge, release, encouragement and love.

It means that you must not seek a solace other than Christ, and that anything that you do to supplant His place in your life is wrong.

Easy to say? Yes. Easy to apply? No. Successful? Yes. Hard to do? No, not hard — impossible. Only Jesus, the One who loves you and lives within you is able to overcome overeating. That’s the reason you must let Him do it for you, through you. Overeating isn’t the cardinal sin or the ultimate flesh pattern, but it is one — among all of mine and yours and everyone else’s — that imprisons us, brain washes us and fights to keep us captive. Jesus shouted, "I have come to set the captives free!"

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.