Food, Glorious Food!

September 29, 2011

Food by artist Lynette Yencho

The most immediate and terrifying realization that any abuse victim comes to is that they have little control over what is happening to them. What little power they have is not enough to fend off abuse. What’s happening to their bodies is beyond their control. This sets up a vicious cycle for dysfunctional survival that can last a lifetime if you’re not careful.

The set up goes something like this: Your abuser misused his or her power against you. When that happened, they took away your sense of personal empowerment and hijacked the control you should have had over your body and your life. That damaging experience of being without power and control placed you on a lifelong quest to regain power and control over what happens to you and your body.

This quest can impact every area of your life, but there is one issue that’s a struggle for many, many abuse survivors: the relationship we have with food. Food is not a luxury, it is a necessity, but it is one that can easily get out of balance for anybody. This is especially true for abuse survivors when we hate our bodies.

It’s common to blame the weakness or the gender of our bodies for the abuse we experienced. But let’s be clear about this: your abuser is the one to blame! Not your body, your size, your strength, your gender, or your appearance. Please remind yourself of that fact often as you navigate through the debris that your abuser left behind for you to deal with.

This negative view of your body carries over to the struggle many survivors have with food. Abuse is traumatic and often impacts your brain function in such a way that your internal regulators, designed to tell you when you’re hungry or full, may be malfunctioning. In addition, food can be viewed as a way to self-comfort or exert some degree of power and control over what happens to your body.

When food is used to comfort, the food choices are often high in fat, sugar, and calories, probably ingested in portions that are too large, and consumed too quickly for the brain to send out the “you’re full” signal. This is why many abuse survivors are overweight or obese. When food is used to exert power and control, it is your way of convincing yourself that you have some degree of say in what happens to your own body. For example, to starve yourself when everyone is telling you to eat is a dysfunctional way to claim control over your body. After all, abuse takes away the power to control what happens to your body, but the way you eat returns some degree of that power and control.

Eating disorders are highly complex, and this is a very superficial treatment that doesn’t touch on many key points, such as body image. I encourage you to seek professional help if you struggle in your relationship with food.  I encourage you to begin with information from the National Institute on Mental Health by clicking this link if you want to know more about eating disorders and treatment.

For abuse survivors, the tentacles of being powerless reach far into the heart, mind, and body and throw everything out of balance. Yes, others struggle with obesity, anorexia, bulimia, and food hoarding, but the inner workings for an abuse survivor include a relentless search for power and control over one’s own body. This takes on different forms for different people, but at the heart of it all is the insatiable appetite to reclaim the right to decide what happens to your own flesh.

Recovery involves learning how to live in your own skin and appreciate your body in a way that reflects the dignity God created for you to enjoy. This goes beyond diet and exercise. It goes to the heart of what it means to reclaim what was hijacked. To treat food as a friend and not an enemy. To shift your focus from “I live to eat (or not eat)” to “I eat to live.”

Your relationship with food extends to making a spiritual transition that cares for your body as the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19, New Testament Bible), a temple that is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, Hebrew Bible), and to be celebrated as a holy vessel. This, in turn, helps us to reclaim the balanced relationship God designed us to have with food.

Food! Glorious Food

I added this just because, well, I love the song. This is from Hey! Mr. Producer!, a concert to honor Cameron Mackintosh and performed as a benefit for the Royal National Institute of the Blind and the Combined Theatrical Charities. It was staged by Bob Avian and presented at the Lyceum Theatre in London on June 7 & 8, 1998.

Written by Sallie Culbreth, Founder
Committed to Freedom – Abuse Recovery Solutions – providing people with holistic empowerment and spiritual tools to move beyond abuse and sexual trauma. This communication is provided for education and inspiration and does not constitute mental health treatment.  This communication does not constitute legal or professional advice, nor is it indicative of a private therapeutic relationship. Individuals desiring help for abuse related issues or other psychological concerns should seek out a mental health professional.


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