One of my college roommates started a blog early this year. To my shame, I didn't see this post until just now. I know the topic has been done to death, but I thought she deserved an answer. Here's the original post, and my response follows. Beating a dead horse is still good exercise, right?
There are many topics that I wonder why Christians don't talk about such as homosexuality, mental illness and so on. But the topic that has been on my mind and heart lately has been food. Issues with food is a subject that many of us here in America deal with. But my issue right now I want to talk about is women's relationship with food. I know it sounds funny to say that but think about it we tend to be emotional eaters. We eat when we are happy, we eat when we are sad, when we are bored, to celebrate, when we are upset and so on. Because of my sister and because of some of my own medical issues( there are certain foods I cannot have.) Which sounds like it could be horrible but I have learned to appreciate my food more. I now savor cookies.
I don't say that to say "Look at me - I have it all together," because I still struggle with it. My big question is why do we let food control us? And why can't we talk about emotional eating as Christians? We can talk about things such as eating disorders and I am so thankful there are places like Remuda Ranch in AZ that is an Christian-based organization that helps especially women deal with their eating disorders. But in a church group of women called UFO (unfinished projects) that I go to the topic is always food. Two women there decided to have surgery to help them lose weight. I'm not commenting on my opinion of their decision to have the surgery. But all these women talk about it is food what they can have and what they can't have. And as they lose weight they expect people to constantly be commenting on how good they look. Why do we constantly want compliments about the way we look? Is it cause we as women are vain? Or eating and food is our way of control? Just because we say, "Oh you look soo good!" when you lose weight does that mean that other days, especially when you feel "fat," you don't look good? Why are our compliments so based on our appearances? Our self worth has nothing to do with how we look. So I challenge you all to think about whether food is controlling you or do you have control over food? And what would a healthy relationship with food look like in your own life? Let's start the discussion as Christians and live in the freedom that Christ has given us.
Just off the top of my head, there's a few things going on here.
1. Women are constantly judged on their appearances in a way that men are not. Feminism and the sexual revolution had unintended consequences in this area. Now modern women have to be sexy all the time, always performing all the time to prove we're equal to men both in the boardroom and the bedroom. Our grandmothers never worried about this, and they had plenty of suitors--and most modern Christian women don't. Toss in the rampancy of porn addiction among men creating further unrealistic standards, and women are really painted into a corner. This is a nasty problem our (within the general Western culture) liberal mothers and grandmothers created and then handed down to us. They can decry it all they like now, but they helped screw us over back in the day. Women can have it all-yeah, right! You want that in a size 6, too?
2. Modern Western food is literally addictive. If you don't cook from scratch according to your personal dietary needs, you're probably poisoning yourself. I work full time. I do what I can to combat processed food, but I recognize after a certain point, I'm SOL (S---omething Outta Luck). The more the government gets involved in what we eat, the fatter we all get. I'm beginning to be convinced that corn subsidies are at the root of the American obesity problem. Practically everything you buy in a package is loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soy fillers, or both. Tons of people are allergic to either, or both. (I have a mild fructose intolerance) The human body can respond to allergens by storing it in fat. A lotta potential histamines = a lotta potential thunder thighs, beer guts, and triple chins. In addition, soy is naturally loaded with estrogen. Too much affects male fertility! Eating it in the occasional edamame or tofu dish is one thing; eating hidden soy in practically everything is a yikes!
Eat for your individual health. If you're self-aware, you know what foods make you feel bad, and what foods you need to pick yourself up again. See Fat Nutritionist for a healthy perspective. Michelle's fairly anti-weight loss, which I disagree with, but I like her focus on figuring out what you individually need to eat for your best health, and being unapologetic about getting it.
3. Yes, food is often a means of control in a stressful, hard-charging world. Children compensate for lack of control and stress overload by becoming super picky. Adult men turn to sports, hobbies, work, and porn to get lost in. Women tend to overeat and overspend. Overeating isn't particularly a personal fault of mine; I'm a stress shopper instead. We all have coping mechanisms that are unhealthy. Overeating is a particularly emotionally fraught habit to break because eating is not something we can just stop doing.
Addressing the vanity question: I see a lot of confusion in the world between the definitions of self worth and self esteem. Self worth is your humanity, your inalienable rights, your eternal soul before God. Self esteem is how you feel about the above.
Women who have lost a ton of weight and need constant reassurance are really asking, "Am I worth something? Do you love me the same even though I'm more attractive now? Does my personhood matter to you, or is it just my outer shell?" It's a constant minute re-calibration of insecurity. I can't claim I'm above this one.
For example, let's take the "Do these pants make me look fat?" question our menfolk always dread. We all know its a trap-there's no way they can answer truthfully and spare your feelings, and even if they give a "correct" answer, the female insecurity we all harbor will probably make us change clothes anyway. The problem is that the "fat pants" question is a red herring. The real question is, "Do you still love me even though I feel ugly today?" But we can't ask the real question, because we're always afraid that the answer might be no.
Annie, you and I both know that ultimately, we find our worth and dignity in being made in the image of God. Goodness knows that's the focus of every. single. women's. study. But God made us to relate both to Him and to other human beings. We're also fallen creatures, and as such, we put unhealthy weight on the opinions of other fallen people. We know it's wrong, and stupid, and we just can't help it!
I wish I had a magic pill, and if I did, I'd be living in ... well, probably some expensive, romantic, bohemian city. But until I make my fortune figuring out how to cure all female neuroses, the best answer I can give you is to acknowledge that yes, it's hard; yes, circumstances and people can suck - both singly and simultaneously! Yes, knowing God made you and loves you is cold comfort when your favorite flattering sweater has mysteriously shrunk, and you never put it in the dryer...When your best guy cheats on you, when your dog pees on your new rug (how do animals always know???), when your best friend doesn't have time to see you, and your parents unfairly criticize you....Okay, I'm all depressed now.
It's going to sound crazy, but acknowledging how much the world can suck is a big help. We cry out against all the wrongness because it was never meant to be this way. But as long as mankind was given free will, sin was inevitable - I truly believe that. If Adam and Eve hadn't done it; their kids would have, or somebody down the line. That's the discouraging part. But it helps to remember that we still have free will. We can choose not to keep eating when we're actually full. We can choose to trot around the block after work instead of immediately sinking into the couch for the night. We can choose to fix ourselves up nicely even when we feel like it's no use. We're not helpless. We have the freedom of personal responsibility, and we have the Holy Spirit's guidance.