Food freedom: my backstory

August 01, 2009

Today is the second day of our two month "Get Fit, Have Fun: M4L Challenge".  I was excited to see the goals of those of you participating posted on our facebook fan page yesterday.  If you missed yesterday but want to join in the fun, you are welcome!  Each day I will post 3 challenges on the facebook fan page and as you complete them, you post on the wall letting us know.  Part of yesterday's challenge was to come up with your fitness goals for the next two months.  I wanted to share mine here:

My goals for the next two months:

  • To lose 12 pounds
  • To get back into the habit of exercising
  • To gain enough energy and strength to mother my kids with enthusiasm
  • To fit back into my "pre Sawyer" pregnancy clothes
  • To drink enough water each day
  • To experiment with more healthy recipes

As I was getting ready mentally for this challenge I began reflecting on my life and where I have come from in the area of fitness and food.  I felt encouraged to share my background with you because we all have areas in our life that we struggle or things that may be hidden in our past.  I am no different, however, I feel so grateful that I am not where I once was and I am hopeful that you also are able to have freedom from the fear of food.

As a child I was fortunate to have a mother that took care to see that my brother and I were offered healthy food and given plenty of opportunities to be active.  Unfortunately, my mother has had an ongoing struggle with her weight all of her life.  Despite the healthy food and regular exercise afforded to my brother and I, even as a young child, I couldn't help but take notice of my mother's weight struggle.  I decided early on, that her struggle, would not be my future.  Unfortunately, what was modeled to me by my mother (regular dieting) shaped my outlook and when I was in grade school I started sneaking her herbal diet pills to school.  A well meaning friend told my teacher and when I was confronted, I lied and told my teacher that they were vitamins. 

The diet pill phase was thankfully short lived.  However, the mindset behind it was not.  I recall a male high school classmate telling me that if I was just 10 pounds lighter, I would look a whole lot better.  Stupid isn't it how those comments stay with you and can motivate you for all the wrong reasons?  I was motivated alright and starting with 10 pounds seemed as good of a goal as any.  Although fasting is something that the Bible encourages us to do, I am sure that it was not intended to be a weight loss method.  I would regularly do "liquid diet" fasts for that purpose alone.  In college I had access to a gym on campus and I began working out on a regular basis.  In fact, it was common for me to workout daily, both morning and evening.  I even got a campus job in the weight room which allowed me to workout during my work hours.  Looking back, I believe that I was "addicted" to exercise and that it had become too large of a focus in my life.  In fact food in general seemed to rule my day.  The amount of thought that was spent on food was ridiculous.  In class I would find myself mentally calculating what my next meal would be comprised of and consequently, the amount of exercising that would be necessary to work it off.  Sadly, I had a friend with the same unhealthy outlook on food and together we only made things worse for each other.  We would workout at the gym and talk about the amazing foods that we would never dare eat.  Over time, it was my friend who introduced me to the idea of taking laxatives to lose weight.  Thankfully, that was something I only tried once (trust me, it wasn't pleasant). 

Just because the laxatives were abandoned, didn't mean the desire to try to "cheat the system" to lose weight was gone.  Over time,I was growing tired of my self imposed restrictive diet (although I would never call it dieting, I was simply "cutting back" on my food intake).  I opted to try the other extreme–overeating and then throwing up (otherwise known as binging and purging).  I was aware that my behavior was not healthy.  However, I was also convinced that I was smart enough to avoid the potential pitfalls.  As one example, I would brush my teeth right after throwing up for example to try to avoid the stomach acid damage to my tooth enamel.  I was convinced that I could beat the system and somehow, someday have the skinny body that I wanted.  I was not willing to admit that food was controlling my life, I was trying so hard to keep control over it.  I have a memory of a time that showed me otherwise.  I had a good friend that was going to be performing in a music group on campus.  I had planned to attend the show.  However, I got tied up (throwing up) in my bathroom and missed most of the performance.  That day stood out to me.  It was the first time I was really able to see that I was missing out on things because my focus on food was so warped.

It wasn't until I began dating Trent during my Jr. year that I was forced to start opening up about my food issues.  I knew that if I was going to be in a relationship with someone who needed to be able to trust me, I was going to have to be honest about what was going on in my life.  I give Trent a lot of credit.  It is not easy to know how to support and encourage someone with an eating disorder, but he did a really great job.  Eventually, we agreed to each give up something for each other.  I gave up throwing up and he gave up smoking.  The desire to see him stay smoke free was a strong enough motivator for me that I was able to turn my back on binging and purging. 

It is not to say that I was "cured" of my unhealthy eating habits.  I remained terrified that if I ate like a "normal" person, I would lose control of my weight.  It wasn't until the summer between my Jr. and Sr. year in college that my fears were subsided.  Trent and I were engaged and planning for our wedding that was just a few months away.  Even though I am from WA, we decided to to get married in Trent's MN hometown (he has a much larger family than I do and they all lived in the midwest so it made logistical sense to have the wedding there).  Because we were only going to be engaged for 4 months and had little time to plan for the wedding, I was invited by his parents to live with them, during our engagement.  Until this time I was a very picky eater, however, I now found myself in a situation where I was no longer cooking for myself.  I wasn't about to request that they make me something special, so I conceded to eat what they ate, when they ate.  The strangest thing happened, I didn't gain weight!  Instead, over time I actually found myself losing weight because slowly my obsession for controlling my food diminished.  My internal fears were proven to be false and I found no more reason to give them power over my life.

I can't describe the freedom that came over time following that summer.  To enjoy a day without scrutinizing each bite that goes into my mouth, to have my mind free to think about things OTHER than food between meals, to eat a wonderful meal, complete with dessert, without fear and without looking for an empty bathroom where I can throw up afterward–it is priceless.

On the 21st of this month Trent and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage.  In a sense, I am now also celebrating 10 years of food freedom.  Praise God that I can now enjoy that area of my life without it controlling me.

Mom 4 Life. Now that Ashley owns Mom 4 Life, I am focusing my energies in homeschooling and asking God to use me in other areas.

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