By Phyllis Ward
Most people become overweight because they eat too much. Usually, we don’t overeat because we are hungry. It’s more that we have used food as a substitute for a friend, lover, or something else that is missing in our lives.
Right before I left to go to Iraq, I met a woman at a buffet luncheon in Houston. She ate enormous amounts of food and was easily 100 pounds overweight. In conversation, she asked me what I do and I told her, “I am a fitness coach and personal trainer.”
That seemed to drive her back to the buffet to get a variety of desserts even after she had already eaten three plates of food. She seemed almost defiant about it, as if to show me she could eat and do anything she wanted. But, she seemed to want to talk.
She began to tell me about her soon to be ex-husband who had had an affair with a friend. She told me that she used to be thin. I don’t think she realized it, but she was justifying her overuse of food. She had turned to food for comfort. Food was the friend helping her through the pain.
I make no judgment of this woman for being overweight – quite the contrary. I felt like she was reaching out for help by telling a complete stranger her story. It’s not like I have never overeaten because of a negative emotion. I understand, but it’s not the answer.
I did feel deeply saddened during our conversation. As I watched her medicate herself with food, I wondered – what was her payoff? What she was doing wasn’t hurting her ex-husband. The only person she was hurting was herself. I wasn’t sad at the way she looked as much as how she felt. She was putting a tremendous amount of stress on her body, but I knew that when she looked in the mirror, she felt depressed about her looks.
I don’t think she could actually grieve the loss of her husband, so she overindulged in food to masquerade the deep hurt she was feeling. I was getting on a plane to Iraq in three hours and, as a fitness coach, I was frustrated that I couldn’t help her. My calling is to help people live up to their potential.
I wanted to share this story because maybe you feel the same way about yourself. You use food to help you through tough situations, and then later kick yourself. You feel bad and know, without a doubt, that you’re spiraling down into a bottomless pit, feeling powerless to climb back out.
So, what you do? You eat some more food, you feel better for a moment, and then you go through the same bad feelings all over again. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt.
Enough is enough; quit doing those things that harm you. You’re not hurting anyone but yourself. If you feel saddened by this woman’s story, it’s probably because you see yourself or someone you know going through the same thing.
Many of us feel it’s a sign of weakness to need or ask for help. My friend, there’s no shame in asking for help. We all need the fellowship of others – that’s why God created Eve for Adam.
When I start working with new clients, I ask them why they called me. I almost always get the same answer; they can’t do it on their own and/or need someone to be accountable to. They need the support of someone else. They have already sent themselves way too many negative messages or received those negative messages from someone close to them.
Many of us, myself included, turned to Christ for help because we were making a mess of our lives and knew there was a better life. We want the love and acceptance of God. Everyone needs love and acceptance, without exception.
The next time you catch yourself overeating because of a negative emotion, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” If not, step away from the buffet. You are much more important than whatever comfort food you are about to inhale.
If you need help, ask for it. That help may be from a friend, God, or a personal trainer, but if you need help … get it! If you’re reading this and thinking of someone who might need your help, extend the offer of your support.
There’s no greater feeling than to see someone climb out of the pit he or she has created. That is why I’ve been working in fitness for so many years. My payoff is to see the miraculous change in people when they feel good about themselves.
If you’re reading this message while consuming a huge meal or having just finished one, I ask you, “Are you really hungry?”
Phyllis Ward is the author of God’s Temple-40 Days to Total Transformation, Christian Fitness Coach, and Personal Trainer. For more information about Phyllis or her services, please visit www.godstemple40.com or email her at phyllis@godstemple40