We live in an addicted culture.
Conditioned to want more.
Will we ever be satisfied? Will we ever say, enough?
– Jason Veach
I grew up in a stable, loving home. I was encouraged, disciplined, grounded in faith, exposed to all sorts of culture and travel, and challenged to take risks. I had amazing friends, a strong church community, was a good student, and was involved in many extra curricular activities.
So why wasn’t that enough?
I’ve traced it back to freshman science class. We were dissecting chicks when I made a revelation. Under the skin there was a layer of yellow fat. Repulsive. I remember thinking: Ick, I don’t want anyone to dissect me and see that.
I wasn’t a gangly child, to say the least. I had seen a lot of picture of models and actresses who seemed to exude bodily perfection. Just crazy thin. I wondered if I should look like that. Funny what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.
It’s not that I wanted attention from a particular boy or group of people at school. I just wanted to be liked because of my appearance. So, I began to make changes.
First, cut out fat. All fat. Anything that would add to the yellow layer under my skin. As a child of the 90s, I was inundated with the fat free campaign. Remember Snack Wells Devil’s Food Cakes? Fat free became my goal.
I needed to burn calories. Played basketball a few years, but lacked athleticism and drive. Then, I discovered running would burn crazy amounts of calories quickly. So I became a runner.
I remember waking up before school and running, like Jess Aarons from Bridge to Terabithia. I remember running after school. I would get frustrated if I couldn’t work out everyday.
As time went on, it began to work. I was losing weight. I could see my ribs and pelvic bone. That was a huge victory. I was lighter as a junior in high school that sixth grade. I had arrived.
But it still wasn’t enough. How far could I take it? How many more pounds could I lose?
My poor parents were unsuccessful in rational conversations with me. Everything they said went through a skewed filter. You need to eat more entered my head as, Wow, you’re so skinny and that’s beautiful. My German teacher, who had me for three years, stopped me in the hall and asked if I was feeling well. I smiled thinking, She noticed! She can tell I’ve lost weight.
Then, total obsession. I counted every calorie. I counted every burnt calorie after a run. I counted every hour before I allowed myself to eat again. I was cold all the time. I was tired. I was sick.
I remember eating Power Bars for lunch at school. Weird, I know. I would go into the library alone, because I didn’t want anyone noticing how I ate. I would pinch off a tiny bit and watch the clock to try and make it last a long time. I controlled every bite.
Why did this happen? Why did I become this obsessive?
More importantly, why wasn’t I enough?
My whole world revolved around me. I closed myself off from everyone else. If anyone tried to talk to me about it, I shut down. Until one day. At a friend’s house. Through an intervention (before it was a cool TV show).
A group of five or six friends sat with some old photos reminiscing. Someone said, Regan, you look so different now. (Skewed compliment.) But they continued to talk about being so worried about me. I assured them that everything was under control. I had every excuse. Just a growth spurt. I’m fine. Just being healthy.
They wouldn’t let me leave. Not until they’d all spoken and prayed over me. I felt exposed. Humiliated that they needed to pray over me. I wanted to get out of there.
But something happened during the prayer. They had their hands on me and I had nowhere to run.
Honestly, I was done running. Done hiding. Tired of controlling every second of my life. Ready to let go.
Healed with Scars
It took years. Time to retrain thoughts and habits. Time to learn how to love and be loved.
Today, I would describe myself as healed from obsessive eating, but with scars. Tendencies. The old thoughts and habits remain – temptations in the back of my head.
But one major difference exists. Immeasurable grace and peace. Coming from something greater than myself. Through Christ’s sacrifice, I am enough. My average height, size, and appearance is enough. I am enough.
I no longer need to listen to those lingering thoughts saying, If only…If only you could wear this size or be this shape. Those no longer singularly define who I am.
I wish I could tell my 16-year-old self that there is so much color and beauty and joy in all shapes and sizes. I would tell myself that there is so much more to life than a body. Seek trusted counsel when having controlling thoughts. Don’t worry about what they’ll think. Don’t do life alone.
I can’t escape the culture of addiction. It’s where I am.
I like to tell myself that my healthy eating habits are the positive outcome of my past, but I know it could easily become an addiction. I like to comfort myself in saying that running was a good thing I’ve kept up, but I know it too could become obsessive.
But I can trust. Trust new habits. Trust the accountability of family and friends. Trust the God who has and will continue to heal.
The choice remains, do I pursue self? Or am I enough?