“One day you’ll write about your relationship with food,” my counselor said.
In that moment I knew what anxiety felt like (again).
My reply at the time was, “Oh, I am not sure about that or when I will be ready. This is a deep wound; I would not know where to begin.”
I heard her words clearly as she kindly gazed at me with a smile. “One day.”
Over a year has passed since that day, and I’m not ready yet. I am honestly still not sure where to begin. Yet this is “one day” on my journey.
Today, I sit at my keyboard with homemade kombucha in my cup, a tea I love brewing and enjoying. I ate an omelet for lunch. It consisted of real food from God’s earth. But I also added pepperoni (of the turkey variety) and some cheese (from a jar).
My friends and family fall into categories of “You ate something from a jar” and “Wow, I didn’t know they made turkey pepperoni.” Maybe, you see my struggle? Maybe, you do not notice anything odd about food from a jar. If not, you’re likely in the second category and are also now Googling, “What is Kombucha?”
You see, my healing journey has taken me on some strict paths of fasting from specific food groups…on purpose. I was horribly ill at the time and that fasting and guidance from my physician brought me much healing. It helped tremendously. Yet, I’m in a season of what feels like… rebellion. For me, it’s “living large” to open a package on occasion and not check the ingredients. After all, my body responds so clearly to what I eat, and I truly must acknowledge this or I become ill. Not checking ingredients can be risky. Yet living in a food bubble is risky as well, not as much for my body but for my mind and my heart.
When rebellion happens, it is also unhealthy. My self-care habits become lazy, and my body becomes sick. I have been in this rebellion place, and it is not healthy either—spiritually, emotionally, or physically.
What is a girl to do? I have finally discovered, this healing journey with food goes beyond ingredients. What is the fine balance of finding healing on the journey when you discover you have had an unhealthy relationship with food for nearly your entire life? How is it that admitting I have an unhealthy relationship with food and what I can now state as an eating disorder feels so shameful? Why does anxiety plague me with most meals and yet I cover it up so well—and have for so long? Few know of the struggle I face daily with ingredients and labels like GMOs, organic, MSG, gluten, raw, the list continues.
As a matter of fact, it feels raw to write these words. Yet, I sense today is the day. One day. My anxiety falls low on the ingredient list for the untrained eye, yet it is present.
Anxiety is no stranger to me, but it’s been over a decade since I experienced its effects. For years, I’ve covered it up with well-balanced and managed emotional health and good diet patterns. I first met anxiety after a health trauma in my life years ago, and anxiety made its home in my heart. It took years of practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and seeing a counselor to discover freedom from the effects my health crisis caused me at that time—and to break free from the anxiety. I thought I was free.
Fast forward a decade to a fresh new season of living into my purpose and call, all while writing and teaching mindfulness tools and sharing them with others! How dare anxiety return to greet me in this wonderful season?
Yet, it has returned, as unwelcome as it is through another health episode (although not as serious), in which I am reminded of the fragility of life. Anxiety appears all around me, but especially on my plate.
Here is what I have learned on my own healing journey. The closer we get to experiencing God’s healing touch, the deeper we realize what binds us and the rawer that feels. I now recognize it on my plate and the fear I have hidden behind over the years with healthy ingredients and secret rebellious snacking. I have been afraid I may hurt those I love by sharing my wounds because much of what I know (and fear) about food was not modeled in healthy ways by my family of origin.
When others eat for nutrients, my brain plays games over and over and over again. My deep wounds surface, looking like a perfectly balanced meal to some, yet to me, it brings a conflict of inner emotions and feelings I’ve looked to food to heal. Anxiety surfaces on my plate.
Yet, it isn’t about the food at all. I eat to celebrate. I eat to mourn. I control what I eat to celebrate. I control what I eat to mourn.
Is it possible to simply eat? I see my counselor’s smile, and I ponder my Creator’s gaze. Yes, I believe it is possible to simply eat. I believe anxiety will show me how, finally.
So, today is the first day I openly write about food, beyond the pages of my journal.
Chocolate nor wine.
Fasting nor supplements.
Keto nor Paleo.
Eating perfectly won’t heal my wounds. Eating imperfectly won’t heal my wounds. Counting points won’t heal my wounds. Binging on gluten-free cookies won’t heal my wounds. Fasting from everything non-organic won’t heal my wounds.
Until now, only my Creator knows of this struggle and has heard this admission. Well, and my counselor…and newest therapist who knows this work well … and now you. While it’s taken a long time to admit, the anxiety caused by food has been a reality I know far too well.
Today is the day, and the next, and the next, and the next. I am not healed overnight, but I am admitting my weakness, my imperfection, and my struggle. And that is the “one day” I’ve longed to embrace. A day that reminds each of us we are not alone in this life. A day that I can move from the shadow of shame and cling to God’s light and love. Today is that day!
In my weakness, God makes me stronger. Not perfect, but free. Oh, anxiety, I thought you were long gone. Yet, I find that as you appear boldly before me once again, you have much to show me about myself. You are ready to set me free!
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of The Redbud Post, featuring Anxiety. Since that time, my body has been adjusting to my new emotional break throughs and yet also struggling with the physical effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Our bodies are wise, my friends. More writing will come. For now, I'm breathing deep and practicing my mindfulness exercises. Thanks for supporting me on this journey with your kind words and encouragement.
Click here to read the most current edition of The Redbud Post.
There are so many hurts in this world. You can't turn on the news without seeing horrible stories of hurt. For that matter, you can't even make it through an election year on Facebook without seeing how good we are at hurting one another with our words. Sometimes the hurts we experience have nothing to do with us. Sometimes the hurts we have are because of the choices we have made. Sometimes the hurts we have are because of circumstances beyond our control like loss or abuse. Quite simply, we all have wounds and hurt in some form or fashion.
I don't care what anybody says, if you tell me that you have NO hurts, I am simply not going to believe you. EVERY single one of us hurts. We just manage or cover up our hurts in different ways. Sometimes we learn healthy ways of dealing with our hurts and sometimes...well, we just don't. Sometimes we bury our hurts deep enough that we even forget we have them.
What stinks is that once you put a bandage over a hurt (or hurts) with denial or addictions (like food, drugs, workaholism, alcohol, shopping, co-dependency, pornography, etc.), that bandage has to come off eventually in order for the wound underneath to ever completely heal. And, taking off a bandage really hurts, doesn't it? Sometimes the bandage has been on so long we don't even know what we started trying to cover up in the first place.
What are your hurts? What is your bandage? Do you recognize them? Of course, God wants to be our ultimate healer. The Creator wants to be the kind of bandage that comes with the antiseptic built in to speed the healing process even if he cannot erase the scars. Do we let God be the bandage or do we keep turning to our own bandages?
If I'm going to ask you, it seems only fair that I answer too. I cover my hurts with food addiction. This is something I've learned to manage much better over the years. But, it is still an ongoing bandage that I turn to whenever old hurts surface or new ones develop (a large quantity of Nutella was the culprit most recently, but at least I ate it with a banana, right?). I realize this "red flag" and understand it about myself. When I find myself turning to food when I hurt (rather than when I'm hungry), I know I'm opening up my box of bandages and not letting my God be the bandage instead. My journey toward exploring peace in this life has included trying to rip off this bandage of an unhealthy relationship with food. And, although I'm hurting and imperfect just like you, I hope we can work toward disposing of those old bandages together. I hope that we can get a glimpse of the healing that God provides each of us. I hope that we can listen to the Creator and follow the urge to be real and honest about our hurts.
When we are honest with ourselves and with other people, we can walk toward disposing of those old bandages and only replace them with God's bandage because it is the only one that will never have to be removed. The Creator's bandages heal us and the scars left behind remind us of who we are and where we come from. And, by sharing with others (not just the five of you who actually read my blog!) that I realize and understand that God is not hiding inside a jar of Nutella, I will be able to remove my bandage much easier and find God's peace. And, you can too. Wherever you turn, recognize and become accountable to your bandages, it will become easier. Blessings to you as you continue this journey toward peace and may those wounds heal with God's help.
There have been many aspects on my journey toward finding personal health. But, a large part of strengthening my physical health has included adding lots more fresh produce. I have only recently gained a great appreciation for the healing properties of food. God made delicious and glorious foods for us to enjoy. The Creator did not make the processed foods that our brains beg us to crave on a regular basis (me too!).
Last year, my family made the commitment to sign up for a local CSA (community supported agriculture). My Dad always had a wonderful garden growing up and there were summers in my teen years that I think I survived off his homemade salsa. And, while I know tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers and herbs. That is where my gardening knowledge ceases. Plus, we like to camp and I'm still traveling some for school. So, it makes it hard to commit to caring for a "big garden". In our little "square foot garden", my 8-year old son and I have planted cherry and roma tomatoes, red and orange bell peppers, chives, cilantro, basil, rosemary, stevia, spearmint and parsley. I'm finding that the herbs really are a plus. They require very little upkeep and are a wonderful addition to our home cooking (I am not a chef, but I am learning to love "good for me" food and herbs help simple recipes taste great). Our garden requires little maintenance and should produce a decent harvest.
However, I wanted more variety out of my produce and the grocery store chains just don't compare with fresh, local food (I promise). So, back to the CSA...my first reaction to considering purchasing a CSA was that it was "too expensive". Secondly, I was afraid we wouldn't "like it all". Third, I wasn't sure I would know "what to do with some of the things".
Interestingly enough, none of those objections were fair. We have learned so much in this process. First of all, we spend less at the grocery store than we used to (even with the upfront cost of the CSA). We eat what we have and it is usually delicious (there was once a blue hubbard squash recipe that was not our favorite, but the dog did not let it go to waste!). This simplicity of eating what we have helps menu planning and grocery store anxiety and gets us back to basics and closer to simplicity. We eat what we have. And, it is good good good for you. I find that I do like vegetables that I had previously "turned my nose up at" and my husband and son are finding they like a lot of new things too. Because local, organic and fresh produce tastes really good! Kale chips rock! You can do a LOT with sweet potatoes. And, good greens could change your world! The CSA we are a part of provides recipes and the internet is a gold mine when I'm unsure of what to create with what we have on hand. Plus, the CSA that we are a part of provides us with yummy recipes. All of my excuses were unfair and proved to be untrue.
So, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this season's first box. We have signed up for a half share and so we get a box every other week from Delvin Farms. Our box yesterday included some amazing strawberries (those are almost gone and won't last 24 hours), squash, sweet potatoes, romaine lettuce, kale, collard greens, green onions and broccoli. I can't get our son to eat strawberries from the grocery store but he was eating these straight out of the box before we ever got home and washed them. We had a salad last night. I plan to make kale chips and a broccoli salad today. We'll grill squash this weekend. Yes, it takes time to prepare these foods and I do not always love being in the kitchen. But, I realize this is a vital aspect to my family's overall health. And, I've been reminded recently by illness that when I do not put forth the time to fuel my body and stay well, I have to find the time to recover from being sick.
Consider the goodness that gardening, visiting your farmer's market or joining a CSA could do for your body, mind and spirit. I am working to compile a list of local resources for CSAs, Farmer's Markets and other community opportunities for local food in middle Tennessee. If you have links, post them here or feel free to send them directly to me via email. You will find the resources I've already compiled on this site under the local resources tab. Also, my friend, Jen, plans to blog regularly with photos and recipes from her CSA share. So, get inspired and take the chance to enjoy the goodness that God's gift of fruits and vegetables can bring to your body, mind and spirit. It really is a miracle that I crave kale chips these days over potato chips! Give it a try and your body, mind and spirit may just thank you!
Then God said, "I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food."
- Genesis 1:29 (CEB)
Whitney R. Simpson
yoga & meditation teacher
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC