Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles With Food, Self-Image, And God

June 5, 2018 | Author: Ave Maria Press | Category: Prayer, Eating, Catholic Church, Bulimia Nervosa, Fasting
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In this first book on the topic written from a Catholic perspective, award-winning writer Mary DeTurris Poust offers per...



“Whether you’re tired o being obsessed with your weight, hungry or inner peace even more than you’re hungry or ood, or desiring the reedom that comes with sel-acceptance, Cravings  will leave le ave you Cravings will satisfied.” Kate Wicker Author o Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body 

“Another excellent tool in Mother Church’s hand to help eed God’s children with what they crave most: truth, the ood o saints!” Rev. Leo Patalinghug  Author o Grace Before Meals

“Tis book b ook opens a doorway to hope or anyone anyone locked in a struggle strugg le with ood. It is a rereshing guide to reedom in Christ.” Jeff Young  Podcast host o Te Catholic Foodie

Cravings A Catholic Catholic Wrestles Wrestles with with Food, Food, Self-Image, and God

 Mary DeTurris Poust 

ave maria press

notre dame, indiana

_______________________ © 2012 by Mary Deurris Poust All rights reserved. No part o this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, except in the case o reprints in the context o reviews, without written permission rom Ave Maria Press® Inc., P.O. Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Founded in 1865, Ave Maria Press is a ministry o the United States Province o Holy Cross. Paperback: ISBN-10 1-59471-305-7 ISBN-13 978-1-59471-30 978-1-59471-305-7 5-7 E-book: ISBN-10 1-59471-353-7 ISBN-13 978-1-59471-3 978-1-59471-353-8 53-8 Cover and text design by Andy Wagoner. Printed and bound in the United States o America. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

For my grandmother,

 Helen DeTurr DeTurris, is,

the strongest and wisest woman I know.

Contents Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Prologue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Chapter 1: A Deeper Hunger: Filling the spiritual void with ood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Chaapte Ch terr 2: 2: Die Dieti tin ng Del Delus usio ion: n: Foo ood d is is no not the the en enem emyy . . . . . . . 19 Chapter 3: Mirror, Mirror: Discovering our true selves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Chapter 4: Freedom by the Forkul: Break Br eakin ingg the the cha chain inss o o a hig high- h-at at,, as ast- t-ood ood cul cultu ture re . . . . . 57 Chapter 5: Feast or Famine: Chaangi Ch ging ng att ttiitu tude dess to towa warrd ho how w and wh whyy we ea eatt . . . . . . . 73 Chaapte Ch terr 6: Ba Bala lanc ncin ingg Act ct:: Cue uess r ro om th thee mo mona nast stic icss . . . . . . . 89 Chaapt Ch pter er 7: 7: Soul Soul Food Food:: ur urni ning ng me meal alss into into med medit itaatio tion n . . . . . . 10 1033 Chapter 8: Just Desserts: You ca can ha have yo your cak akee an and sp spir iriitua uall li liee, too too . . . . . . . . . . 12 1233 Appendix: Practices or the Journey Forw rwaard . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

Acknowledgments alking honestly about ood issues and sel-image isn’t always easy, and so I want to start by by thanking all those t hose people who opened their thei r hearts and shared their stories so that others might benefit. I was honored to talk to so many wonderul people about their journeys through diet plans and sel-esteem struggles to a place o wholeness. Tank you rom the bottom o my heart or agreeing to be part o this book. I also want to thank Bob Hamma, my editor at Ave Ave Maria Press. He was the one who originally suggested I tackle t ackle this topic, and, to be honest, I balked at first. Ten I began doing some research, and little by little I realized I had a story to tell. Since that time, Bob has treated this book as i it were his own, and I am so grateul that my work has had a champion, a protector, and a abulous editor as it moved through the various stages o production. Tank you to Susanna Cover or her thorough and thoughtul editing o my manuscript and to everyone ever yone at Ave Ave Maria Press who helped helpe d make this t his book a reality, reality, especially especial ly om om Grady and Amanda Williams. While I was weighing the consequences o poor sel-image and ood obsessions, my amily was w as patiently waiting or dinners that were later than usual, play dates that were postponed, and an end to the general insanity that typically ensues whenever I write a book. Tank you to my husband, Dennis, who is not only my partner in all things t hings but my personal pe rsonal editor ed itor as well. You are the best; b est; I couldn couldn’t ’t do any o this without you. And thank you to our beautiul children, Noah, Olivia, and Chiara, C hiara, who always al ways find a way to counter my ix



busyness with steady doses dos es o love, laughter, laughter, and handmade drawings that hang beside me as I work. Finally, I want to thank the amily members and riends whose prayers quietly sustained me throughout this process. Whenever I was losing ground or eeling overwhelmed, I took comort in the knowledge that your whispered prayers, unheard and unseen by others, were keeping me on track and moving me orward. Tis book was an unexpected gif, one that unolded beore me as I explored the depths o my heart. I elt the Spirit at work as I wrote my way through issues and subjects that were sometimes dificult to address. It is in weakness that we are made strong, St. Paul reminds us. I hope that by sharing my moments o weakness with you, we can both find strength in the only One who makes us whole and complete.

Prologue Food—and our relationship with it—has gotten a bad rap right rom the very beginning. What chance did it have when the whole o humanity’s downall hung on one bite o the wrong ood? alk about eating issues. Te connection between ood and aith certainly doesn’t end there. Te apple in the Garden o Eden was really just a crudité in the endless banquet that t hat is our spiritual story. Troughout Troughout both the Old and New estaments, we can trace a aith history that is marked by asting and easting, culminating in the ultimate u ltimate east, the Eucharist. Eucharist. For Catholics, any conversation conversation about the ood-aith ood- aith connection will always come back around to this one central theme. Ours is a aith centered on a meal. Day afer day, week afer week, we gather around a table to break bread with our spiritual amily in much the same way we gather around the dinner table with our individual amilies each night. As we begin to explore the undeniable connection between spiritual nourishment and physical nourishment, we will constantly look toward the Eucharist, toward Christ, as our grounding point, our center in the storm o ood obsession, weight gain and loss, and plain old low sel-esteem. I you simply want to explore ood and spirituality, there are plenty o books out there to help you do that. But i you want to get to the heart o the matter—your relationship with God and your ability to become the person you were created to be, unettered by ood-related problems—you’ll need to go places those other books 1



can’t take you. And that’s can’t that’s where this t his book bo ok will help, where this book b ook is different. From the very beginning, even rom the selection o its title— Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God —this God —this book has shown itsel to be something ar more complex and challenging than what’s what’s typically served up in books on ood oo d and spirituality. My editors and I went back and orth trying to choose just the right words to convey on the cover what readers would find on the pages inside. Cravings says it best, because whether you’re hungry or ood or God, sel-acceptance or inner peace, there is a craving at the heart o it. But it goes go es even deeper than that. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel, we are ofen our own worst enemies when it comes to working through our issues and learning to rest in God’s love. Cravings is Cravings  is not simply a ood-ocused book b ook that dabbles in spirituality.. It is a Christ-ocused book tuality b ook that addresses the ood issues that haunt so many o us, whether we are overweight, underweight, or exactly where we’re supposed to be. Because sometimes—ofen—the number on the scale has nothing to do with the depth o the struggle. Te physical hungers that lead to constant snacking and highcalorie meals ofen mask something much deeper, a spiritual hunger that can never be satisfied by anything we buy at the grocery store or whip up in a ood processor process or.. What can satisy us once and or all? Only God can. So S o this path to wholeness will be b e centered on the one relationship that promises to ree us rom the constraints we put on ourselves through overeating or yo-yo dieting or sel-loathing, rom the things that prevent us rom experiencing the peace and potential that is rightully ours. Jesus said: “I am the bread o lie; whoever comes to me will wil l never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).



What are the things you are hungry or? Physical beauty? Acceptance? An escape rom  rom the chaos? A better job? j ob? A happier home lie? Chances are good that whatever your hunger, you attempt to fill it with things th ings that can’t can’t possibly give you what you’re you’re seeking. seeki ng. ogether we’re going to travel a path that will lead us closer and closer to the truth—to our personal truth, to ultimate ruth. And once we’ve we’ve tasted that reality real ity,, that peace peac e that only Jesus can give, g ive, only then will we know in our hearts the ulfillment o what Jesus offers us in the Gospel. Gosp el. Imagine or a moment breaking ree rom the constant c onstant craving, not just or the cookies you don’t need but or a lie different rom the one you’ y ou’re re living right r ight now, now, or a you different rom  rom the one you’re called to be. It’s possible. You’ve already taken the first step. So how should you use this book? You can work your way through it rom beginning to end, or you can pick it up and find a chapter that speaks to you right now. You can read it on your own or find a buddy or even a group o riends to make this journey with you. Whatever approach you decide to take, I hope you’ll see it as the beginning o a permanent change, a pivotal moment when you choose to become your true sel and to know once and or all the meaning o God’s all-embracing unconditional love, a love that requires no specific body mass index or dress size. At the end o each chapter are meditations and questions or discussion or journaling. When you’ve you’ve finished the book, you can use the practical exercises in the appendix at the back to help you go ororward. It’ It’s probably a good goo d idea ide a to have a notebook noteb ook nearby as you read this book so you can jot down thoughts, memories, tips, and plans. Beore we set s et off on this journey j ourney,, I’d like li ke to share a story story.. When I was deciding whether I was really ready to sign on and do this book, I spent a lot o time praying on it. I wanted to be sure that it was the right thing, not only proessionally but personally and spiritually as



well. I really put it beore God and asked or some insights. Ten I went to Sunday Mass, and, I kid you not, every single reading that day was ocused on ood. Te first reading began with this verse rom Isaiah 25:6: “On this mountain the Lord o hosts will provide or all peoples a east o rich ood and choice wines, juicy juic y, rich ood o od and pure, choice wines. w ines.”” Te second reading continued the theme with this gem rom the Letter o St. Paul to the Philippians 4:12–13: “I have learned the secret o being well ed and o going hungry, o living in abundance and o being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” And finally,, in a reading finally rea ding rom the Gospel o St. Matthew, Matthew, Jesus compared the kingdom o heaven to a lavish wedding banquet. I’m sure the priest that day wondered why I was sitting in the ront row with a gooy smile on my ace. It’s rare that I get those without-a-doubt answers to prayers, but, boy, this one was right up there. More than that, however, however, those readings were a reminder—in black and white—that ood and aith are inseparable. So, turn the page, come to the east, and know what it means me ans to never be hungry!

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A Deeper Hunger Filling the spiritual void with food You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works. Psalm 139:14

When was the first time ti me you looked in the t he mirror and didn’t didn’t like who you saw staring back at you? Were you still in elementary school, fighting back tears rom the constant teasing teasi ng over your weight, your eyeglasses,, or your hair? Was eyeglasses Was it high school s chool perhaps, when the t he prospect o getting a date or the prom shifed the eelings o inadequacy into high gear? Maybe you’re you’re one o the lucky ones who w ho managed to make it into adulthood beore you began to cringe every time you caught a glimpse o your reflection in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Now or or what is likely the more difficult question: When was the last  time  time you looked in the t he mirror and didn’t didn’t like who you saw staring st aring back at you? wenty years ago? ago ? wo wo years ago? One week ago? oday? oday? I can remember walking into the conessional in our little parish chapel when I was no more than ten years old, kneeling down, and including among my list o very innocent sins: si ns: “I hate mysel.” mysel.” 5


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Despite my up-close-and-personal relationship with that eeling, I’m still dumbounded by the act that a child or teenager, or adult or that matter, matter, can look in the t he mirror day afer day and see only the t he flaws. And yet that eeling comes so naturally or some o us. For ar too many o us, learned eelings o inadequacy have led us to where we are today, fighting a daily battle to love ourselves or exactly who we are—or who God made us to be—and, more ofen than not, losing that battle battle to the very ver y things that only take us deeper and deeper into i nto our eelings o sel-loathing. sel-l oathing. We We attempt to eed our hunger—or hunger —or God, or others, or love, or understanding, or success and more—with momentary bites that never satisy. On some level we imagine we can fill up all the empty places in our soul with other things, ofen attening things—French ries and burgers, ice cream and cookies, bowls o pasta and bottles o wine. But afer we wipe our mouths and throw away the evidence, all we have lef are deep eelings o regret, guilt, sadness, and anger. One morning not that long ago, when I was battling a boatload o disappointment and doubt in my own lie, I ound mysel stealing ste aling  jellybeans rom my kids’ candy collections. coll ections. As I paced around my house, trying tr ying to ward off a downward spiral, I’d make periodic peri odic passes p asses by their individual boxes o jellybeans sitting on our dining room sideboard. Although I was only semi-conscious o what I was doing at the time, I had the wherewithal to take some rom each box so that no child’s candy would be noticeably lower than the others’. It was only a ew hours later, as I was getting ready to go out, that I realized realiz ed the seemingly desperate hunger or ood—candy, in this case—was really about a desperate need or something else, something s omething that was missing in my lie. Every time I contemplated a particularly difficult work situation, I grabbed a handul o candy. When When I thought about ways I elt

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I was ailing as a mother, I grabbed another fistul o candy. When I reflected on my spiritual lie and stalled attempts at real prayer, you guessed it, I grabbed yet more candy. candy. Not because I was w as hungry. Not Not because the candy was particularly partic ularly good. But because there was a void in my lie begging to be filled, and ood is my go-to, all-purpose filler. Even as I popped the jellybeans in my mouth, as i they were a magical cure or my emotional hangover, I knew I’d be sorry in the morning when my waistband elt tighter and the scale sc ale inched upward. And still I elt powerless to simply stop eating. Tat scenario, unortunately, is not an isolated instance in my lie, or in the lives o so many other people, particularly women. From my earliest teenage days, I can remember starvation diets and candy bar binges during times o celebration c elebration or strie. I a pool party or school dance was coming, I’d exist on cans o ab and sugarless gum. Literally. But more ofen than not I’d head to McDonald’s with my super skinny best riend or French ries and shakes, or I’d walk over to the pizza parlor across the street rom the card store where I worked part time to grab two slices and an orange soda, sometimes with a couple o pink snowball cupcakes on the side. Although I’ve never been seriously overweight, I have still battled b attled the dual demons o mindless eating and high-calorie habits on a regular basis. Te older I get and the urther  urther along al ong my spiritual spiritual path I walk, the more I have come to see these bad habits or what they are—ways are—wa ys to avoid what I really need, what I really real ly want, what I crave and ear all at once.

Sometimes a Cookie Is Just a Cookie O course, not every bite o extra ood we put into our mouths is a statement on our emotional or spiritual well-being. Sometimes we eat out o boredom or stress or without even realizing we are


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scarfing down handuls o Goldfish crackers as we simultaneously help the kids with homework, cook dinner d inner,, and check email. We We live in a society that pushes us to go aster and aster, to multitask our multitasking. Food just gets caught up in the mix. I realized that act in a big way afer making my first silent retreat at the Pyramid Lie Center in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Tis retreat was a little more intense than your typical silent retreat because we weren’t allowed to read, write, or make casual contact. When you are sitting in a dining room with twenty t wenty other silent people, some just a ew eet across rom you, and you cannot distract yoursel with a book bo ok or an iPod or a crossword puzzle, you suddenly come ace-to-ace with your plate o ood, sometimes or the very first time. And it can be a little unsettling. Tere is no place lef to hide, when you are silently staring into a bowl o corn chowder with no access to all o the usual emotional crutches. And that’s a good thing when we’re talking about coming to terms with bad eating habits and unhealthy attitudes. Peering into my bowl that weekend, I began to see se e that the way to God is paved, p aved, at least in part, with more mindul eating, more mindul talking, more mindul living. Unortunately, Unortunately, that lovely idea didn d idn’t ’t last long afer I returned to the real world and the insanity o home lie, where even Grace Beore Meals is fit or a circus tent. Te first “regular” day afer my retreat, retreat, I sent the kids off to school and made mysel breakast. As I set it on the table, I began looking or a newspaper or magazine or laptop or phone. No sense wasting  valuable eating time not getting somet something hing else done, right right?? And An d then I stopped. And listened. Quiet. Something that is so rare at our house. I could hear the tap-tapping o rain rain on the allen leaves. I could hear the cats batting a toy around the basement. I could hear mysel think. And I wondered, what exactly am I trying try ing to drown out out when

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I insist on multitasking even while eating a meal in peace? It’s one thing i the kids are home and I’ve got got my mommy hat on. But when I have time to eat breakast alone, why would I want to clutter it up with meaningless stuff? Because Bec ause eating mindlessly is one o the ways I avoid thinking, one o the ways I avoid listening to God, one o the ways I get out o living in the moment. I’m much better at living in the next moment or the next year. So that morning I put away the newspapers. In act, I removed them rom sight. I cleared the space around my seat o any clutter. I put the phone in the other room. I even lit a prayer candle in the center o the table. And I sat down, said a blessing, and slowly and quietly ate my oatmeal with walnuts and dried cranberries, tasting every bite. I ound, as I did on my silent retreat, that eating in silence is a lot like praying in silence. I had to keep bringing mysel back to that spoon o ood every time my mind wanted to craf an email in my head or think about what was up next on our amily calendar. When you slowly and prayerully taste every bite o your ood, you do not overeat, and you don’t don’t go looking or something somet hing else five minutes later. It clears a space inside and allows God to enter into the picture, which, I can tell you rom experience, is a powerul way to shif eating rom mindless to mindul, something we’ll discuss in  very practical terms in chap chapter ter 7. Obviou Obviously sly silent silent meals are are not not the norm and they never will be or those o us living out in the world, but there are important lessons to be learned l earned there, and we’ll explore them as we journey toward wholeness.

Are You Willing to Be Radical? S ome Best-selling author Anne Lamott, in her book Traveling Mercies: Some Toughts on Faith , writes about her battle with both bulimia and alcoholism. She conesses her realization, afer finally getting sober,


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that the binging and purging that controlled her lie were never really about the ood but about something much, much deeper. “I elt when I got sober, God had saved me rom drowning, but now I was going to get kicked to death on the t he beach. It It’’s so much hipper to be a drunk than a bulimic,” she writes, speaking o the internal “voice” that would haunt her until she went to the store and bought Cheetos and chocolates and laxatives. Lamott goes on to explain how she eventually reached her limit and sought help, finally coming to terms with what it eels like to be truly hungry, as opposed to eating mindlessly when something inside—whether we call it a voice or a eeling or a habit—urges us to orage in the pantry or stare into the rerigerator or run to the store. She calls her ability to accept hersel as she is and overcome her bulimia a “miracle.” “I know where I was, and I know where I am now, and you just can’t get here rom there. Something happened that I had despaired would never happen,” she writes. “Whatever it was, learning to eat was about learning to live—and deciding to live; and it is one o the most radical radic al things t hings I’ve ever done.” Tere’’s no doubt Tere doubt that any major lie change requires a radica radicall shif in thinking. I we have always thought o ourselves as at or ugly or invisible or all o the above, learning to see ourselves with new eyes can eel more dangerous than skydiving or swinging rom a trapeze without a net. Even i we aren’t acing anything close to the devastating and dangerous dangero us condition that Lamott L amott battled, it’s it’s still still not easy easy to change the negative tape that has been been on continuous loop or years, maybe orever orever.. So it comes down to asking ourselves the questions we’ve probably been trying to avoid: What do we want rom lie? What are our hopes and ears? Where is God in the mix and how do we relate to our Creator in contemplation, in action, in the mundane details o

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daily lie? Are we willing to be radical, willing to accept a miracle in our own lives? As you work your way through this book, try to become more awaree o your eating habits. I’m not talking about counting calories or awar carbs. I’m talking about a general, guilt-ree gui lt-ree awareness. Don’t Don’t attach  judgment  judgme nt to anything anything.. Just Just observe. observe. I I you you find your yoursel sel eating eating chips straight rom the bag as you talk on the phone, make a mental (or actual) note o who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. I you’re sitting at your desk popping chocolate chip cookies like they’re peanuts, make a note o what you’re you’re working on or what might mi ght have transpired in the minutes mi nutes beore or what is coming up on your agenda that day. I you’re sitting home alone on a Friday night with a gallon o ice cream and a spoon, think about what you’d rather be doing at that th at moment. Chances are there’s something s omething happening on a spiritual or emotional emoti onal plane that’s that’s coming out in a physical way—in this case, through eating. At the same time, t ime, reflect on where whe re you are in your spiritual lie. Is your relationship with God what w hat you want it to be? I not, what’s what’s lacking and what can you do to bridge the t he gap? Start to look at your body bo dy and spirit as two parts o a whole. We cannot attempt to pursue one piece without impacting the t he other. other. Are we always rushing and seeks eeking? Slow down and breathe. Beore you reach or that next cookie, sandwich, chip—stop. ry to decipher whether you are really, truly, physically hungry or starving or something else. Pray. alk to God. Lean on Jesus. Make a spiritual Communion, taking the nourishment you need rom the Source o all ulfillment. When we begin to connect prayer lives to physical lives, when we look beneath the surace, we ofen discover just how deeply intertwined the two are and how our ood issues are wound around our spiritual needs and longings. We’re not hungry or a carton o ice


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cream or a bag o chips. c hips. We We’re hungry or acceptance—rom acceptance—rom ourselves even more than rom others—or love, or ulfillment, or peace. We’re hungry or a lie we think we don’t deserve or can’t have, or the person we know we can be i only we’d give ourselves the chance. Ofen, it is not the ear o ailure that holds us back but the ear o success. We cling to the comortable rather than step out into the possible. So we sit at home with a container o Cookies and Cream rather than take a chance on getting our heart broken again, or we down an entire bag o chocolate-cover cho colate-covered ed pretzels rather than t han work on that resume that might get us out o a dead-end job. Or we eat cold pasta right rom the rerigerator rather than sit down in silence and listen or the whisper o the Spirit speaking to our hearts. In her beautiul poem “Te “ Te Summer Day, Day,” Mary Oliver Ol iver asks the question that really lies at the heart o our battle to reclaim our lives rom bad habits, escapes, and addictions: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious lie?”1 How would you answer that question right now, without overthinking it? What do you want to do with your “one wild and precious lie”? With each chapter o this book, we’ll attempt to answer that question by peeling back layers to expose the t he core o our true selves, the beings so wonderully made by our Creator God. In doing that, we make the radical decision d ecision to live ully ul ly,, just as we are, and to learn to love what we see in the mirror, not in a vain or pretentious way, but in a healthy healthy,, holistic, holist ic, and holy way. way. You may be thinking that this plan sounds difficult, or next to impossible. For sure, it won won’t ’t be easy, but the road we we’ve ’ve been walking walk ing until now hasn’t exactly been problem-ree. So how do we start? By taking the time to pay attention to the world around us. By learning to be idle without needing to fill up the empty space with noise or busyness—or ood. By digging down into our souls to discover our

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real reasons or filling up on cookies and potato chips and candy when we want to fill up on God and goodness and joy joy.. By becoming be coming more mindul o how we eat, where we eat, when we eat, and what we eat. We’ll talk about all o this in detail, step-by-step, as we journey through this book, so don’t eel overwhelmed and don’t eel as though you are doing this alone. Countless people, mysel included, have been on this same path or are on it right now with you.

What Are You Hungry For? A ew years ago, when I was preparing or a presentation I was to make at a women’ women’s retreat, I spent time reflecting refle cting on Psalm 139, which w hich is partially quoted at the start o this chapter. When I first read the psalm, I could eel walls going up. I bristled at the idea that I could be “wonderully” made. I was reading and shaking my head, no, no, no. Tere’ Tere’s a good goo d chance you may eel the t he same way when whe n you soak in the ull version o the psalm below. Read it now, not as a psalm written thousands o years ago but as a poem written or you, by  you,  you, today. today. Quiet everyt e verything hing around you and rest in the words o this psalm. Let the beautiul images wash over you and carry you along, and i you eel the walls starting to go up, acknowledge the eelings and then let them go. Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts rom aar aar.. My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are amiliar. Even beore a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all. Behind and beore you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.

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14 Such knowledge is beyond me, ar too lofy or me to reach. Where can I hide rom your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? I I ascend to the heavens, you are there; i I go down to the depths, you are there too. I I fly with the wings o dawn and alight beyond the sea, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand holds me ast. I I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”— Darkness is not dark or you, and night shines as the day day.. Darkness and light are but one. You ormed orme d my inmost being; you knit me in my mothe mother’ r’ss womb. I praise you, so wonderully you made me; wonderul are your works! My very very sel s el you knew; my bones were not hidden rom you, When I was being made in secret, ashioned ashion ed as in the depths o the earth. Your eyes e yes oresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, beore one came to be.

Psalm 139:1–16 

Afer I’d spent some serious time with that psalm and really started to believe it was something written or me, something that was not just meant to be read with my head but instead experienced with my heart, I elt a subtle shif inside. It was as i someone had

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gently nudged the skipping record o negative thoughts that had been so much a part o my internal conversation, enabling me to hear the next line o my lie song. s ong. Tat’ Tat’s not to say all al l the negativity vanished in a flash, but a door opened up and a slant o light slipped in. What i God really does love me unconditionally? What i I really am wonderully made? What i it’s possible to turn around all those years o thinking I was “less than”? What i . . . what i . . . what i? I we believe we are made by our Creator to be exactly who and what we are—nothing more, nothing less, nothing better, nothing worse—we can begin to let go o some o the shackles that bind us to alse ideas o physical beauty and outward appearance. We can finally look inside and discover our true selves and the wellspring o love that is the Spirit o God within us. And when we connect with that Spirit, we can ace the mirror mir ror and believe, really believe, belie ve, that we are more than because than because we are loved by a God who wants to give us everything we can imagine and ar more. When we do that, or even take the first baby steps in that direction, we find, almost without realizing it, that our need or other things, whether ood or alcohol, shopping or obsessive cleaning, suddenly begins to lessen. Te good eelings we tried to obtain through an extra slice o pizza or a hot udge sundae are now suddenly there or the taking. No spoon required. No calories to count. And the news gets even better. When we finally see ourselves or who we really are and not or who we imagine ourselves to be, or who society tells us we should be, we discover we can eat the oods we love and be healthy and happy all at the same time. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition; it never was.


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Food for Thought 1. How did you eel when you read Psalm 139? What eelings came up? Can you see yoursel as “wonderully” made? 2. Have Have you you seen yoursel as “less than” than” at at any any point in your lie? I so, what brings that eeling up or you? 3. Are you more inclined toward emotional eating or mindless eating? 4. Can you pinpoint triggers that send you you looking or or the nearest box o cookies or bag o chips? Is it work-related, relationshiprelated, spiritual, physical? 5. Are you willing to consider that you are perect just as you are and begin to look at yoursel and your lie with new eyes? 6. Tink o at least one riend who could share this journey with you, someone who will listen when you need to talk, encourage you when you’re losing ground, celebrate and pray with you when you’re you’ re making strides. 7. Get a notebook or journal and and begin to record your reactions to to what you’re reading—your ood habits, prayer habits, triggers, urges, anything that will help you uncover what’s at the heart o your relationship with ood.

Practice Begin to look at yoursel as a “wonderully made” whole—body and soul, two critical pieces working in cooperation. Reflect on how you nourish your spirit compared to how you nourish your body. Do you overeed one and starve the other? How can you add more spiritual ood to your daily lie li e to balance out the equation? Can you do more

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spiritual reading or silent prayer? prayer? Can you get to daily d aily Mass on occasion or pray the Rosary or Divine Office? Find one spiritual exercise that suits you and make a commitment to add it to your daily routine or one week. When you eel yoursel getting overwhelmed by negative eelings or ood cravings, turn back to your spiritual practice or to the words o Psalm Psalm 139 and try tr y to settle into the calm, quiet space you find there. At the week’s end, notice i there were any changes in your eating habits and attitudes during this time o regular prayer. prayer. Were Were you more accepting o yoursel and your weaknesses? Did you have more or ewer bouts o negativity or ood binges? Write down what you ound. Can you continue your practice long-term or adapt it to fit more easily into your lie? Make a prayer plan.

Meditation So ofen we look in the mirror as i through a glass darkly, seeing not what God has created but what we have created in our own minds, our own hearts. We pray today or the grace and the wisdom to look beyond the surace, to see into our own souls and recognize the hand o God at work there. We are wonderully made, known and loved by our Creator beore we ever drew breath.

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