I read the message and a few seconds later, without even thinking, I stood in front of the pantry searching for anything that contains a little chocolate.
Today a kid’s granola bar will have to suffice.
Something. Must. Stop. The. Stress.
But, it doesn’t. And, I’m not satisfied. Twenty seconds after polishing off the Quaker Chewy, I search again.
Nothing seems to fill what I crave. I try a handful of granola, a bowl of sweetened cereal, even a spoonful of peanut butter. Fifteen hundred calories later I still feel just as hungry as I did when I first opened that pantry door.
The truth is: There’s no snack in there that can fill the ache. There’s nothing I can put into my mouth that will yield peace in my heart.
After twenty years of recognizing this habit and trying to break it, you think I’d see it and stop it before it starts. You may assume that because I’m aware of my pattern that I would be in control enough to redirect my emotional eating.
But most days, I am not.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do have victories. Days where I can stop myself and say, “Heather, what you really need is a conversation with God, not another handful of chocolate chips.”
Other days, I miss it. Completely.
For years I worked across the hall from a woman who could make a single serving bag of M&M’s last for a week. She’d take a few out when she needed something was sweet and then roll the top of the bag closed until she visited it again, the next day.
In my book, this made her a superhero. Who has that kind of willpower? I often thought.
I felt guilty that I wasn’t that strong. I knew that if a bag of M&Ms sat in my desk drawer all day they would be all I could think about. I needed something to fill my emptiness. Now.
Of course, my emotional eating couldn’t help but show up on my body. Sin always takes its toll on us physically and my gluttony was no exception. So, constantly thinking about my food choices inevitably resulted in constant worry over my weight.
A wise man once said, “What you think about in your solitude is your religion.” Now, when I speak to groups on the topic of body image I share this quote along with my own confession: I spent years waffling in my service between the bathroom scales god and the god of all things chocolate.
Chocolate would tell me I needed it and I’d oblige. And, then the scales would tell me I overdid it, and I’d repent to its wishes and shun chocolate for a solid day or two, or until it seduced me back.
The cycle seemed unstoppable. As a believer in Jesus Christ I’d pray about it. But, no one could ever give me a more solid answer as to how to break out of my scales and then chocolate and then back to scales worshipping ways. So I’d pray, “God help me not eat chocolate.” Or, “God, please help me to just lose this weight!”
Then someone mentioned the word idolatry. And, it changed my life.
Sure, when I first heard the “i” word I was certain of my innocence. I barely glanced at the Buddha statues in our local Chinese restaurant. I wouldn’t even buy a garden gnome…you know…just in case.
My life had been one giant exercise in serving gods who couldn’t save me. Though I looked to the scales to show me the number that would make me eternally happy, they could never deliver. And, although I looked to my favorite sweet treats to relieve my frustration and bring me joy, they never lived up to their promises either.
Now I see how at the root of my food and weight issues rested an even deeper issue–a belief issue. I didn’t believe that Jesus truly had what I needed to be happy and free and feel the refreshment of salvation. I was an idolator.
Though that sounded like bad news, it was actually good. There’s a remedy for idolatry. While there never seemed to be a suitable way to solve my chocolate addiction or weight obsession, there was a solution for my sin. And, though my other prayers like, “God help me not eat chocolate” or “God help me get skinny” never seemed to actually draw me closer to him. This type of prayer did.
The prayer of repentance.
I’ve spoken those words, “I’m sorry Lord, forgive me” at least five dozen times since but every time I come to a new recognition of how in need of true salvation I am. I used to lament that my “low self-esteem” kept me trapped in a vicious cycle, but now I understand that my self-esteem wasn’t too low, rather it was my Christ-esteem that fell short.
Only He had what the pantry and the scales did not ever: Life. Abundant life.
About Heather Creekmore
Heather is passionate about helping women struggling with their body image. She’s a group fitness instructor, author, speaker, mother of four, and wife to Eric (a Marine fighter pilot-turned-pastor). During her single years, Heather spent more than a decade working in politics and non-profit management. She much prefers being a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom (but thinks it’s more difficult!). Follow her blog about body image, motherhood, and faith “Compared to Who?” or on Facebook at Compared to Who?
You can also find Heather’s post over at communitymoms.wordpress.com