Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles With Food, Self-Image, And God
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 rereshing 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 Deurris 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. www.avemariapress.com 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 Forkul: 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 liee, 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 wonderul 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 grateul 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 thoughtul 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 beautiul 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 comort 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 unolded beore 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 diﬁcult 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 downall 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, unettered 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 satisy 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 rightully ours. Jesus said: “I am the bread o lie; 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 lie? 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 lie 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 ororward. 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. Beore 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 proessionally but personally and spiritually as
well. I really put it beore 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 gooy 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!
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 beore 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 conessional 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
Despite my up-close-and-personal relationship with that eeling, I’m still dumbounded 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 satisy. 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 lie, 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 lie. Every time I contemplated a particularly diﬃcult work situation, I grabbed a handul o candy. When When I thought about ways I elt
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I was ailing as a mother, I grabbed another ﬁstul o candy. When I reﬂected on my spiritual lie 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 lie 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, unortunately, is not an isolated instance in my lie, 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 strie. 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
scarﬁng down handuls 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 Lie 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 mindul eating, more mindul talking, more mindul living. Unortunately, Unortunately, that lovely idea didn d idn’t ’t last long afer I returned to the real world and the insanity o home lie, where even Grace Beore 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 breakast. 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 breakast 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 prayerully 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 powerul way to shif eating rom mindless to mindul, 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 conesses her realization, afer ﬁnally getting sober,
that the binging and purging that controlled her lie 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 rerigerator 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 lie 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 lie? 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 lie? 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 beore 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 lie. 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. Beore 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 surace, 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
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 lie 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 comortable 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 rerigerator rather than sit down in silence and listen or the whisper o the Spirit speaking to our hearts. In her beautiul 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 lie?”1 How would you answer that question right now, without overthinking it? What do you want to do with your “one wild and precious lie”? 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 wonderully 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 mindul 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 “wonderully” 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 beautiul 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 aar aar.. My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are amiliar. Even beore a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all. Behind and beore you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.
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 wonderully you made me; wonderul 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, beore one came to be.
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 lie 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 wonderully 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.
Food for Thought 1. How did you eel when you read Psalm 139? What eelings came up? Can you see yoursel as “wonderully” made? 2. Have Have you you seen yoursel as “less than” than” at at any any point in your lie? 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 perect just as you are and begin to look at yoursel and your lie 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 “wonderully 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 overeed one and starve the other? How can you add more spiritual ood to your daily lie 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 lie? 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 surace, to see into our own souls and recognize the hand o God at work there. We are wonderully made, known and loved by our Creator beore we ever drew breath.