We just survived birthday week 2020 in our household. Micah turned 13 on June 4 and Jamin and Eli hit 11 on June 6. (Poor Isaac always feels left out.) It seems like I make more cake the first week of June then the rest of the year combined. Friends birthday parties, Van Donge birthday party, Hubers (my side) birthday party – we do a lot of celebrating. Mostly because I like to celebrate birthdays, which is why I feel it’s important to have birthday cake at every birthday party. Very necessary to the success of a birthday in my opinion.
Yesterday I made the last cake of birthday week 2020. It was a monster cake – so thick I couldn’t get the innards to bake – took forever. Full of cookie dough balls I baked right in there. Cookie dough frosting you’d probably cross a small country for. That cake kicked some serious butt.
I love cake. I eat it on the regular. But halfway thru my piece, I realized eating that gigantic piece was going to probably be my undoing. It was my choice to eat it, but when I took the last bite, I said to my family, “Eating that cake was no joke, definitely not for the faint of heart.” Delicious, but tipping the scales on almost too much of a good thing all at once.
Eating Disorder Compulsion
Since recovering from my eating disorder, I have overcome my need to restrict food, but also the need to binge. There were plenty of times when I lost control and ate until it hurt, simply because ED had given me permission to eat food right then. When ED gave me permission, I took full advantage because I didn’t know when I’d have the freedom to eat what I wanted again.
Now I have no desire to eat until that hurting point. I have the ability to stop when my body says full. I think it’s mainly because I don’t have to be scared that the next time I’ll be able to eat will be for a long time. I can eat what I want, when I want. I love that freedom.
But back to that cake. Last night was a rare occasion when I ate a bit too much. I was a little too full because I had made the choice to eat the whole piece. When that used to happen during my eating disorder, the feeling of full would tip me into depression, anxiety, and anger.
I’d be mad at myself for eating too much, angry that I had lost control, depressed that I was “fat”, anxious that I wouldn’t be able to get control back. That valley after overstuffing myself was a hard one to come out of. It usually involved an extreme need to restrict food and hours of exercise.
Last night, I laughed at the size of that cake. I made the choice to eat all that tastiness because it was . . . tasty. I was full, but I wasn’t angry at myself. I didn’t feel the need to go out immediately and exercise. I didn’t feel “fat”.
Even this far into my recovery, I still marvel at the freedom I have from ED. I settled into my fullness, realized it for what it was, but I knew it was simply a feeling that would eventually go away.
I knew I hadn’t gained weight because of that piece of cake. I exercised this morning the same amount as I always do, not more to make up for the cake. In fact, the piece of cake from last night never crossed my mind. I didn’t exercise to burn those calories; I exercised to get strong, because I enjoyed it, for the same reasons I love exercising every morning.
I knew I hadn’t lost control because of that piece of cake. When I took 3 too many bites for comfort, I did it because it had been my choice to eat too many bites. I could have stopped at satisfied, but that cookie dough cake was the bomb. I wanted to finish it, and so I did.
I made that choice for myself; ED didn’t make it for me. I wasn’t out of control, nor did I feel like I couldn’t get control back. Eating what I want when I want is my choice.
Freedom in Choice
Food is a choice I get to make without a voice whispering cutting remarks and degrading comments in my ear. In my eating disorder, ED would have told me I was worthless, that I was fat, that I had no ability to control myself, that I should just give up. ED would have controlled my emotions until I hated myself and became angry at everyone around me simply because I was angry at myself.
I am not my eating disorder.
I am Rhonda Joy. Stress on the Joy. I make choices. I have the ability to reason through those choices. Do I really want to eat this? Am I full? Am I still hungry? Is this satisfying me? Will another bite make me overly full? Is another bite necessary? Will I be able to eat this again tomorrow if I want? Is this the last piece of cake on the planet? Is this the only cake I will ever be able to eat for the rest of my life?
The joy I feel in my freedom from ED comes from the fact that God created me with choice, and I now know how to make the smart choices for myself. If I do overeat, it’s because I chose the next bite. And I can live with that. I can live with feeling full because I know it’s not a permanent condition and it won’t be my downfall.
But mostly, I make the choice to eat what my body needs and wants, and then I choose to quit. Binging and overeating are not logical, and I love logic. Makes life more of the Joy and less of the Anger or Anxiety or Depression.
Celebrate Joy in My Choice to Eat
Joy comes from knowing I can make the right choice by using the logic the good Lord has blessed me with. Life is a blessing I will never take for granted. I have known the chains of depression and anxiety, and now I know the freedom of joy. God has been so good to me. He gave me this body, and now I know how to listen to the hunger cues he created me with.
So, that cake, good stuff I tell you. I’m happy there are leftovers – unless my children get to the rest of it before I’m hungry for another piece. But good news, I’m the baker, and if I want more of that cake, I’ll make another. That’s definitely a choice that would be easy to make.
Enjoy freedom and live in joy. That is God’s gift to us. And remember, I am a firm believer in celebrating. With cake or without.