I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? — Romans 7:15-24, NLT
I love food. Period. For as long as I can remember, food was not only a part of my physical sustenance, but a part of my emotional existence. Can you relate? Did you also grow up in a home where cookies made the hurt feel better, or where ice cream melted away a broken heart? I ate to celebrate special occasions; I ate because I was bored.
Being an active cheerleader in high school, these unhealthy choices didn’t seem to make a difference in my physical appearance. I stayed slender no matter what I ate, although in the back of my mind, I worried about being overweight. No … let me change that … I worried about getting fat. The dreaded “F” word, with all of the ugly degrading connotation behind it. My best friend at the time struggled with bulimia and anorexia, and she was thinner than I. Put two and two together – if she thinks SHE’S fat, well gee, I must be too! Diets and extreme measures were never my style, though, and I simply silenced those thoughts with another mouthful of deliciousness.
The results of those poor choices never caught up with me until after I got married. I went to college for one year out of high school, and instead of gaining the “freshman fifteen,” I actually got into the best shape of my life due to the required PE class. After one year, though, I left college to marry my high school sweetheart. My physical activity went to zero, and my food intake went to “two very young adults eating pizza most of the time,” as my (now ex) husband worked for Domino’s. On a young couple’s budget, free pizza worked our perfectly for our finances, if not for our health. Three months after marrying, I became pregnant with our older daughter, and the excuse to eat was justified! In fact, my doctor warned me a few months into my pregnancy that I was gaining too much weight. After the appointment, with tears in my eyes, I bought a Snickers bar and said, “He’s a man. He doesn’t know what this is like.” I gained 60 pounds with that pregnancy.
I lost the weight from my first pregnancy just in time to get pregnant with our younger daughter. I was much more careful this time, incorporating daily walks into my routine and not gaining as much weight as I did previously. After her birth, I didn’t worry about my weight at all until one day in the bathtub. I caught my reflection in the overflow drain and started to cry. Never mind that I’m quite sure those things are like fun-house mirrors, distorting the curves terribly; I was fat.
Thus began the ups and downs of my entire adult life and the battle with the scale. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I took every pill and potion, went on every diet, bought every workout video and destroyed my metabolism. Looking back now, not only do I regret the money I wasted, but the emotional damage I did to myself – and I am quite certain to my daughters. You can only hear your mother degrade herself so many times before it becomes ingrained into your mind too.
So let’s fast forward before I tell my entire life story. Condensed version: food was my best friend and my worst enemy, and my priorities for losing weight over the years were totally out of whack. For that matter, my LIFE priorities were out of whack. If I want to be truly honest with myself, my body issues combined with food addiction played a part in the ending of my first and second marriages. Not the only part, but definitely buried deep in there somewhere.
Years later, God is still on His throne, and once I surrendered my heart so that He could be King of my life, things changed. My struggle with food as lord over my life is still a raging battle. This is where I can totally relate to Paul in his letter to the Romans. Why do I do what I know is not good? I love God, and I love being obedient to Him! Can there be victory? Will a day come when I desire to honor Him in EVERY part of my existence, not just in the parts that are easy? I get so excited when I read verse 25 of Romans 7! Remember, verse 24 asks that pertinent question, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” Who provides victory? “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25, NLT).
When my focus is on Jesus, things fall into place. Jesus is to be my Comfort. Jesus is to be the Focus of my celebrations. He is the One I should turn to when temptations arise, when boredom strikes, when frustrations prevail. Being healthy is an admirable reason for getting that vicious cycle of food and guilt under control. Wanting to live longer so I can enjoy my grandchildren is not wrong. Even the desire to feel confident isn’t such a bad thing. However – all of those things pale when compared to honoring God. He created us.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. –Psalm 139:13-16a, NLT
I realize the battle to put God first in all areas of my life is a lifelong one. I also know without a doubt Who holds the victory. God’s mercy, grace, strength, and peace give me hope through it all.