My emotions used to be very well-hidden, buried under more than 250 pounds of flesh. Uncovering my emotions was the one thing I never wanted to do, however I found it was the one thing I had to do to live.
I have always what I know valued much more than what I feel. Our emotions, though, actually rule our behaviors if we let them. For years my emotions were partnering with the evil one to end my physical existence on this earth.
I was allowing the thief to steal, kill and destroy me.1 He really has no authority to this unless I allow him to, but because he was plying me with sweets, I fell right into his trap.
My Mind Is the Problem
Still, I thought my mind was the biggest issue I was dealing with. I didn’t see the evil one’s schemes. I thought if I could just change my thoughts, I could change my behaviors. That’s true in part. My mind governs my feelings. It remembers how I feel about things after I am cognitively unaware I even feel that way.
That’s why I can know processed sugar and breads are unhealthy for me, but when I try I can’t stop eating them. I can’t understand why I keep being drawn back to them. I have an emotional connection to the food that I don’t even remember or haven’t thought about in a long time.
It’s that old conundrum. “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.”2 This is a very emotional response to the problem. It’s not rational. It’s not well thought out. It’s emotional, plain and simple.
For years, though, I denied had any problem with emotional eating. When I would hear the term emotional eating, I would always picture someone depressed sitting in a room crying and eating ice cream, cookies, pizza and chips. I didn’t see my eating like that.
I ate to be happy, to celebrate, to give myself a reward. Yes, I would eat when I was sad, overworked, frustrated, angry, lonely or felt unloved. However, I didn’t see those times as the predominant ones. I ate because it provided one way for me to have fun and still keep my emotions at bay.
I Used Food to Medicate
I used food to even out my feelings. I didn’t really want to deal with being frustrated or extremely happy. I just wanted everything to be on an even-keel, flat line.
I never wanted to be out-of-control. I did not know how to express healthy emotions because in my family they were either over-expressed or suppressed. I saw both extremes in each of my parents. So I held my emotions in and I ate them away. That way I had the appearance of being all put together. Of course, it was all a ruse.
Food anesthetized any pain I felt to the point I didn’t have to feel. I could face any situation with calm, whether it was emotionally charged or totally depressing.
We are all created as triune beings—body, soul and spirit. Just like my body needs water, nutrition, exercise, air, sunlight and sleep in order to be healthy, my spirit needs to be fed with prayer, Bible reading and study, worship and fellowship.
It stands to reason if my body and spirit need things, so does my soul. My soul can be characterized as my mind, will and emotions. In other words the part of me that governs my behavior. I understand the mind and I know the will, but it’s the emotional part of me that often is an enigma.
It is the emotional-relational part of me that needs affection, attention, love and significance. If it does not get these, it will seek a way to get them. If I am scared of emotions or don’t know how to express them and want to keep them hidden, I am resourceful. I will find a ways to do that even if it is not a healthy way.
Food Hid My Emotions
My mechanism for hiding emotions was food, especially food that contained sugar and flour. To learn how to express emotions without hiding behind foods was difficult. I had to go back and confront some of my deep fears and emotional issues.
As my daughter says, I did battle with my own demons. The emotions felt like beings with claws waiting to pounce on me. As I went through and confronted each one, though, with God’s help it became easier and easier to allow God to set me free from the bondages of my past, the emotions that were hanging on to me.
I did this the hard way by processing years of wrong thinking and forgiving roots issue and people as God revealed the situations to me. I learned it’s not difficult to shake off these issues when I trust God in the process. Some of my most favorite things to do is to lead people through this inner healing process and straight to the throne of God.
I hadn’t completed my inner healing when I started my healthy eating journey, but I had gotten to the point where I saw clearly my model of using food to anesthetize pain was only heaping on more and more pain in the way of pounds.
Surrender is the Key
I had always tried to lose weight by being mustering up all the self-control, strength and courage I could. When I put my mind to something I can usually do it. It was exactly this mindset that negated my feelings and paralyzed all my good intentions. In reality, I had tried for years and found I could lose weight, but I could not stay away from the foods that were addictive to me.
Admitting that I am a sugar addict became my lifeline to God. When I admitted my weakness and surrendered the foods I had been using as coping mechanisms, that’s when God stepped in with His grace and strength. Then, the real life-saving journey began.
Remember how I had been allowing the devil to steal, slaughter and destroy1 my very existence? Jesus reminded me that He has a different goal in mind for me. He wants to give me everything in abundance, more than I expect—life in its fullness until I overflow!1
Embracing God-Given Emotions
Changing my mind was not so much the issue as changing my heart. I had to realize that it is okay to feel my emotions, even if it feels like I am naked and uncovered in front of the entire world. I no longer have to hide. I embrace my God-given emotions and hand the negative ones, life-sucking ones to Him.
When I started to do that, amazing things happened. I began to feel again. I fell more in love with myself, my husband, my children, my family and others.
More over, I lost over 250 pounds. I love life. I stopped trying to control everything and everyone. I allow myself to get angry at injustices. I can scream with delight. I feel deep sadness. I laugh out loud. I cry real tears. It’s okay to be emotional because God gave me emotions to help me feel alive.
Most of all, today I can unequivocally say, I am completely and totally in love with Jesus!
Yes, it’s a little bit emotional, but that’s so all right with me.
1John 10:10 TPT
2Romans 7:19 NLT
© 2019, Teresa Shields Parker