Food and Eating

This will be the crucial page dedicated to answering questions, sharing struggles and providing counsel regarding 'food and eating issues'.

An Eater's Testimony: Alyssa

Freshman year at Palm Beach Atlantic University, on the first floor of Baxter Hall I met Alyssa. A tanned beauty with a sweet spirit and sarcastic sense of humor, we began to get to know each other toward the end of the spring semester. When we returned to school after the summer, Alyssa and I struck up a closer friendship. We quickly realized that our bond was deepened by a mutual struggle: food. We'd both had our struggles, and I as was in the midst of one of the hardest, the Lord placed Alyssa in my life as an accountability partner, encourager, and sister. I am ever so thankful for her.

And I am thankful that she has decided to share her story with all of you:

"Where to start with the journey of disordered eating/eating disorder (something that used to be a big distinction in my mind)? Well, I was born, and I ate. And from then on it was downhill. Ok, not really. It wasn’t until I was 8. It was then that I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and now in hindsight, I can trace the eating issues to that singular event that had far reaching consequences. It was a major ordeal—falling into a coma, having severe ketoacidosis, hallucinating—until I was taken to the ER with a blood sugar of 875 (120 is normal). And then life was different, counting carbs, being stereotyped as never being allowed to have sugar, eating on a schedule. On the one hand I became really comfortable with measuring spoons and nutrition labels. I also craved the things I couldn’t have and so my family had to hide candy and sweets from me. And by the 4th grade I was overweight, which escalated throughout my high school years. I remember my first diet in the 5th grade, going to Weight Watchers with my mom in 7th, then all of a sudden not caring at all and eating whatever I wanted and doing huge amounts of insulin to cover it. The battle was up and down-always wanting to be thin like my friends and trying to eat right, then “cheating” and eating on the sly huge amounts of whatever I wasn’t supposed to be having. On top of that, I am not athletically gifted and so was only moderately active. 15 minutes on the elliptical counted as a workout and a life goal was to be able to run a mile. By the time I went to college, I was maintaining a weight by eating decently, but not wonderfully, and taking long walks every day.
Then I went to school in Florida. Where everyone wears a bikini, or runs, or is just beautiful and tan without much effort. I haphazardly began running (I was too embarrassed to stop after a ½ mile when the whole basketball team walked in the gym), at big salads for lunch and dinner, and little else in between cafeteria meals.  And magically, I started losing weight, without a concerted effort or trying. So I kept doing what I was doing and the weight just melted and I kept having to buy new jeans. Shopping became fun for the first time ever and I was getting rave reviews on my new body when I traveled home for breaks.  I made exercise science my minor and took nutrition where we had to document every single thing we ate for 2 months. I bought a 2 piece (my mother hates “bikinis”).
And then I took a quiz online about “the eating disorder next door” and feared something was wrong with me. My parents found out and sent me to counseling, to which I balked because I felt like that made me crazy or mentally unstable or like I was going to be sent to some ranch in the desert to eat more food. That round of counseling didn’t do much, even though I pretended like the issue was over. I went back to Florida and even though I was still very small, I oscillated between what I now recognize as starvation mode and bingeing. By this point I realized I had disordered eating-I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food. KT (Kathryn) and I made notecards and prayed together, and that accountability was meaningful. But it didn’t solve the problem. I was addressing the issues on the surface, but not really attacking them at the core of my heart.
I transferred back home to finish college and experienced the cold of winter for an extended period of time. I also went on birth control because my dramatic weight loss (50ish pounds) and ramped up running (6-7 miles, 6 days a week) took away my “woman-ness.” And I indulged and gained weight. Not a ton, about 10-15 pounds. And I hated my body, hated how I felt, hated that my cute skinny clothes didn’t fit anymore. And I turned to the last resort I knew to try and quickly eliminate the fatness I felt: bulimia. I made myself throw up and took  multiple laxatives a day. It didn’t work. I went home for the summer and stopped the bulimia and lost a little weight, but it was a miserable summer. That fall I fell into it again, hard. I graduated and moved to Dallas where I lived alone with a 75 year old (2nd) cousin. I was isolated, had no direction, and had no activities or friends, unlike school where I was busy and lived with 9 wonderful gals. And the bulimia became worse and I became obsessed with weighing myself. I ate like a bird during the day and then had massive binges at night, ending in a raw throat and disgruntled intestines from the vomiting.
The first time I went home was for Easter, and I finally told someone: my brother, to try and sustain some sort of accountability. And then I had a huge binge and threw up and told everyone it was because my stomach didn’t handle the chocolate. And then I balled my eyes out into my brother’s shoulder, and for the first time somebody made me talk about what I was thinking and feeling. I told some close girlfriends who knew of previous struggles and began the long road to recovery. From then it was a small handful of times that I threw up again until the Lord finally released me into freedom. The story of that specific moment is a beautiful one, but I’ll save it for another dayJ
That is just the long chronology of how I got to where I am now…I still pour over my notecards daily, I seek to expose the struggle in me and share Truth, because Satan wants nothing more than for it to be my solitary struggle. And for far too long it was, but I’ve come to a place where there is freedom in speaking out and being vulnerable. I do all those things because it is still a struggle. I’ve been graciously released from the bulimia, but food still holds an unhealthy allure to my mind and heart that I constantly battle. " (written exclusively by Alyssa Peiser for "Thoughts on Etcetera") 
Thank you so much friend for being vulnerable with us all. And I hope that you all can be edified and encouraged to know that there are other ladies out there who are in the battle too.
An Eater's Testimony: Kathryn

I have been an athlete ever since I can remember. I started playing volleyball competitively in 2nd grade, and from there my interest in sports expanded: soccer, baseball, basketball, softball, and running. I played them all and loved every second - but soccer, volleyball, and running were my passion. In high school, I played both soccer and volleyball on club teams (travel) and for freshman, JV, and Varsity teams throughout my four years. I loved games, but practices were where I really thrived, pushing myself and motivating my teammates. In my junior year of high school, I was elected to be co-captain of our Varsity volleyball team which was a thrilling and humbling experience for me. I worked very hard as a 'libero'/defensive specialist and even earned a mention in the region that winter season. I went into high school soccer season that spring pumped and ready for some competition. Unfortunately, my high school coach did not notice my work ethic and looked down on me for my small stature - I did not start for most of the season. In my senior year, I again pushed very hard in volleyball and travel soccer, excelling as a player and as an athlete, but when spring soccer rolled around I was hit with more disappointment. As a senior, I still got little playing time in my position as goalkeeper due to my size. It was very disheartening, but I tried to keep a positive attitude and motivate my teammates.

Throughout the last two years of high school, I began a new 'diet' of sorts. It consisted of TONS of fruits and vegetables, rarely if any meat, and organic food galore. I was kind of on a health-nut craze and used my love for sports as a motivator to eat very healthy. Though I didn't know it at the time (for the Lord had not saved me yet) eating had become an idol. I always watched what I ate and how much. Rarely would I even eat after long, hard volleyball practices and games that lasted until 10 & 11pm.  In my senior year, I was confronted by a dear friend who said that I looked way too thin and she was very concerned about me. I have always been short and on the smaller side, so it was hard for me to notice a dramatic change in my weight or body size. I thanked her and told her that I would definitely tell her or someone else if I was seriously struggling. 'I have never starved myself or thrown up', I thought. Little did I know there are other kinds of eating struggles.

Later that semester, in the last soccer game of my high school career against our rivals (Grosse Pointe North) I was taken out of the game by my coach who put in a junior in my place. I was devastated - and parents were shocked. We lost the game, and I left feeling deflated. I went to the gym at the local park and ran... hard. It wasn't until later that I would see that kind of outlet as a problem: I exercised excessively because of my frustration and to prove something, both to myself and others.

My eating habits have always been fairly steady throughout my lifetime, but my obsession with exercising and healthy eating climaxed my freshman year of college. My first semester, in the fall of 2007, I found myself without a regular sport schedule for the first time since 4th grade. I missed competition and teamwork, so I decided to take up running. I loved it because I could constantly push myself, it was another sport to learn, and I could always recruit friends to join me. In December when I went home for Christmas, at least a handful of friends noticed something about me: my weight. I was thin.. too thin. My diet at school consisted of salads in the "Caf" and peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat. I didn't eat meat. And I exercised almost every day. Though my heart had had a dramatic inward change (The Lord saved me and gave me His Spirit!), my body was what people noticed first. I still continued to exercise, work out, and run consistently and was involved in many activites including intramural sports that freshman year. I was always appreciative whenever people confronted me with their concerns, but I never really thought I had a problem. I always just attributed my weight to my healthy eating and high mileage. Again the thought of an 'ED' (eating disorder) was CRAZY to me!

Until the fall of 2008. After coming back to college for sophomore year, the chaos and busyness of school, work, ministry, a social life and other activities took their toll and I became very overwhelmed. I stopped exercising and I turned to eating as an outlet. For the first time I binge ate to cover up my emotions and to "protect" myself from stress. My problem was not anorexia or bulimia. My problem was a rollercoaster ride of emotional eating and obsession with healthy foods, and exercise. The reason I was so depressed that semester is because I couldn't seem to get control on my eating. I didn't talk about it with anyone for months, and when I finally did I felt ashamed and disgusted. I was depressed and coming to the end of myself... I was calling on the Lord, crying out to Him, but living in disobedience because I was clinging to other things rather than confessing my sin and being cleansed. The Lord convicted me and changed my mindset, I needed people, I needed community, I needed to be vulnerable with my sin to God--I couldn't hide from Him.

Since the spring of 2009, I have found much freedom from the idolatry of eating in the treasures of Scripture. Along with a close friend who struggles with many of the same issues, we created notecards listing verses that we would refer to when we were battling thoughts about our weight, our identity, our self-image, and our eating. I've learned a major lesson: God hates idolatry, and our hearts can make something as necessary and seemingly uncomplicated as eating, into an idol. But there is such hope when we entrust to the Lord our excesses: whether that be exercise (as it was and is for me), eating, or our self-image. God grants us liberty and freedom in the journey of our struggles and teaches us to trust in Christ and to identify ourselves with Him, more than with our weaknesses and sin.

Two of my favorite passages that I refer to often in the midst of my "food battle" (as Chance calls it) are found in first Corinthians.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." -1 Corinthians 6:9-11

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." -1 Corinthians 6:19-20

As I continue to learn the depths of my heart, I find the more I need God's grace to persevere. For someone who knows how prone she is to struggles with food, exercise, and vanity, this life is a constant battleground. My hope and prayer is that I can use my awareness to help, encourage, educate, and embolden others to fight this same battle with me.

(P.s. I still struggle with overexercising and unhealthy eating habits, but the only difference is that I know my struggle, the root, and some steps toward the real solution)


My Allergen Story

If you have a food allergy, say "I". I just heard a resounding "I"! If you are like me, and hopefully not many of you are, you may be struggling to figure out what ails you after you eat that delicious meal you just cooked. You may have annoying pangs in your side or constant tummy cramps, or... well we won't go there, but you get the picture. Often times the food that we eat can cause us pain! For about 6 years I have struggled with a number of symptons that doctors couldn't seem to diagnose - all relating to the digestive system. While I will spare you the details I have wrestled with a whole slew of obnoxious bodily ailments. In college, after venturing to Beirut, Lebanon, I came back to Florida to spend a week with my (then) boyfriend (now husband!). For a whole week I suffered from horrible stomach aches and regardless of how healthy I ate or how many indigestion meds I took, the pains just wouldn't go away. My poor future-in-laws had to deal with me for a whole 7 days!

To give you a little bit of background, in 2006 my mom was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease known as Celiac's Disease. The disease is (in layman's terms) triggered by an intolerance to gluten (a wheat protein) that causes damage to the intestines and digestive system. Unable to absorb the nutrients contained in whole grain products containing gluten, the intenstines become damaged resulting in inflammation, headaches, chronic stomach pains, anemia, fatigue and a lot of other symptoms. Because Celiac's is a disease and is thought to be genetic, I had a blood test done to see if I also had the disease. The results: nope. The symptoms: yep. I have had the test done twice and both times I have gotten negative results. After my symptoms persisted, I had two other tests done that revealed nothing.  Needless to say the past few years have been frustrating as I have tried to correctly diagnose my poor digestive system to no avail.

If you know me, you know that I am a healthy eater. In fact, a few years ago I was an obsessively healthy eater (more about that later in: An Eater's Testimony). But even though I downed tons of fruits and veggies, whole grains and legumes, I still had odd and obnoxious symptoms that plagued me from time to time. I have been on a lactose-free diet because I am considered lactose-intolerant for about 6 years, but until about one month ago I still 'suffered' from other chronic symptoms with little to no relief most times.

Then in December 2011, I decided that even though I have not been diagnosed with Celiac's Disease, that I might as well give Gluten-Free a shot. Since I have gone Gluten-Free most of my chronic symptoms have gone away! I have been on probiotics, medications, and had multiple complicated tests, but come to found out the cure was actually fairly simple: eliminate wheat & gluten and all will be well. I have so impressed by the range of products now available to Celiacs & Gluten-Intolerants (GI); in 2006 when my mom was diagnosed you couldn't find gluten-free pretzels, pizza crusts, breads, or brownies ANYWHERE! I mean not even at Whole Foods.. well okay maybe Whole Foods.

I will likely be on this diet for the rest of my life but considering how much better I feel (and it's only been a month) I think that "going without" is well worth it.