What to do When Food is Your Enemy

First published by Bett Harris on Medium August 26, 2021

My bittersweet relationship with food

How it all began

I’ve had an on-again-off-again bittersweet relationship with food my entire life. I almost died when I was three months old due to Failure to Thrive, a potentially fatal condition where my tiny body shut down and failed to grow. My mom told me this happened because she introduced me to solid food too early and my system wasn’t ready to handle it.

My warped relationship with food started while I was still in diapers.

Another reason for my Failure to Thrive, which my mom never mentioned but I found out later from my oldest sister, was that I was neglected by my mother from birth. My mom only wanted two kids, and I was number five. My mother found out my father had an affair with her sister when she was in the hospital giving birth to me.

No wonder she couldn’t care for me and love me as a mother should, she was horribly broken herself.

At age five, I was treated for anal fissures. All I can really remember of that time was the excruciating pain I experienced every time I had to have a bowel movement, and the powdery substance my mom put on my cereal every morning to treat my condition.

Again, I was told by my mom that my condition was caused by not having enough fiber in my diet. Yes, we were poor back then and healthy food was a luxury, however, the neglect was still very present. My oldest sister told me years later that she raised me for most of my formative years, at least until my parents divorced that is.

I was six when our family split apart.

I learned to cope by using food

My unhealthy relationship with food began to rear its ugly head when I was ten or so, old enough to cook for myself, and old enough to know I needed an escape from the turmoil in my home.

Food became my best friend…and my worst enemy.

The outward signs and symptoms of my misuse of food as a coping strategy became very evident in my early 20s when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol. Around the same time, I started gaining weight. I had been able to stay very slim through school because I was active in sports and always on the go.

When I slowed down, my bad habits started to catch up with me.

Through my 20s and early 30s, I battled the bulge. I continued to gain weight until, at age 35, I was obese. Around the same time, I had finished university and one course, in particular, changed my life forever. It was called Health Psychology. In this class, I learned the ins and outs of a healthy lifestyle, but more than that, I was given tools to use that helped me overcome the issues I had carried from my childhood.

Most issues with food stem from emotional barriers related to previous unresolved trauma.

Things started to change

With the newfound knowledge and skills I acquired in my Health Psychology course I went to work uprooting my learned behaviors from childhood. Over the years I reworked many of my unhealthy coping strategies, abuse of food being only one of them. I began to implement healthy lifestyle habits that suited me and that had my best interest at heart. It was new for me to have someone truly care for me and my well-being.

Love flourishes when we learn we are loved by God. Only then can we learn to love ourselves.

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19, NIV)

Today

That was over twenty years ago now. I’ve overcome many hurdles/lies set in place during my childhood. I’ve learned that I am loved and that I am worthy to receive love. I’ve learned that I do not have to be ashamed of who I am and that my life is significant. I have a unique purpose only I can fulfill. I’ve learned that incorrect facts/lies can derail us when we’re young, but that when we mature, and if we seek the truth, we will find it.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7, NIV)

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32, NIV)

Tips to help you overcome

  1. Get professional help. Talk to someone who can help you uncover the lies and relearn the following truths; You are worthy of love, your life is significant, you no longer need to feel ashamed of who you are, you have all you need to be all you are meant to be.
  2. Join a support group. Small groups made up of people who share our interest and desire to overcome can be great accountability partners and a much-needed support system for us during tough times. In such a group, we learn, are encouraged, and feel less alone in our struggles.
  3. Ask for God’s help. Though many of the original 12-step-programs have gone by the wayside, it’s a fact that change and recovery are most successful and long-lasting when we engage at the spiritual level as well. We can want to change and learn everything we need to know to invoke change, but without a spiritual commitment and support from God, relapse is inevitable. Nothing is impossible with God!

For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37, ESV)

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