Sometimes I think my tastebuds have failed me. That in the midst of the everyday I have failed to savor. That the rush and appetites of my life have more to do with frantic filling than with letting the aroma of the good things settle on my tongue and linger. 

I bulge at the seams of this overstuffed pace. The frantic tyranny of what must be done. I have never found balance. I have lived a lopsided existence tilting full scale into whatever I’m passionate about at the moment, or halting the screeching pace and trailing off into depression. And when I was diagnosed with bipolar a few years ago, it all made so much more sense. This imbalance of moods. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe balance in some sense is a myth, and it’s just more obvious in my case. 

I think of slowing and savoring. I think of my past, the times I’ve been out of control, the parking lots with fast food bags and binges and shame in the greasy fingered stains on my soul, empty containers of ice cream dripping down the sides of the carton onto my night table and the ache that never fills. I think of secrecy and shame every time I think of the glorious pleasure of food. Because you see, I am a fat woman. 

When a thin woman speaks of her love of bread and wine, chocolate, and the heady scent of basil and tomatoes mixed into a good pasta, she is a foodie. Cultured and sophisticated, with tastes and appreciation for the good things in life. When she jokes about her love of fast food and junk food, she’s charming and relatable. A down to earth girl who is approachable, the girl next door who loves a big steak off the grill or a late night run to Taco Bell. When a fat women speaks of food, and most of us have learned not to, she is weak and sinful. A glutton. Entangled by her appetites and flesh, too much flesh. She’s a warning story about portion size and self control, health and bad habits.

This relationship with food is long and complicated. Because there is a point when celebration around food turns into slavery. Where I cannot fathom a sunny day at the pool without the ice cream cones and sticky fingers of summer. When a night out with my husband isn’t complete without appetizers and dessert, when I am filled too full to be graceful or loving, leaving empty spaces between us. When every reward for my children comes with calories, a show of love. Because what is more loving than fresh blueberry pancakes and sizzling bacon on a Saturday morning, or an early morning stop in at the donut shop as the yeasty dough is pulled from the oil hot and steaming, glaze slathered like an offering? 

I speak love in the filling of bellies and the dancing tastebuds of special treats. And then I ache when I have to buy new clothes because the old ones no longer fit. I ache when I know what’s ahead for kids if they are not skinny and lithe, athletic or sporty. We live in this world where fat is the only acceptable prejudice because you bring it on yourself, deserve the treatment you get because you haven’t tried hard enough. 

How do I hold in healthy respect the gift of food and celebration with the need for temperance and self-control? How do I let the childhood thrill of chasing the melodic hymn of the ice-cream truck not be mixed with apprehension that every anthem of food will be like the pied piper leading us all astray? 

I don’t know. But I do know that when I am lost and can’t see, clearing hindrances is often the only way. So I’m slowing down to savor once again. I decided to do a Whole 30 again, to clear the decks of old habits and excess. Only it turned into a Whole 90 with one moderation day in between. I decided to reframe my appetites, to season my feasts with fasting and to open my table and my heart to the good things God has set before me. 

I don’t believe a diet is a fix all. It’s not a remodel of the house but it will help clean some of the clutter.  Because of some of my bipolar meds and others I have to take, I doubt I’ll ever lose much weight no matter what I eat, as these past 3 months have proven. But I’m ok with that. We’re all doing the best we can and for those who’ve looked at my body and then clucked their tongue at me in the grocery aisle back when all we could afford was top ramen, boxed macaroni, and tortilla chips, I have this to say, food has no morality. It is not good or bad and the consumption of food does not make you good or bad.  It doesn’t make up the value of someone. It simply is.

We’ve added so much baggage to our grocery sacks and filled our jaws with pride or shame depending on what we’re eating. I’m learning freedom in Christ and freedom with food doesn’t mean green leafy veggies are holy and hot pockets are little chambers of cheese filled evil. It means I get my sustenance from God. I look to Jesus to fill the ache and in all things and for all things I give thanks.

I stumble in the grocery aisles, my hand poised over the eggplant that will be chopped up and stewed with red curry. I will wake in the morning and drink in the taste of freedom and temperance. But I will also spread the Indian tapestry of oranges and reds, burnt sienna blaze over my table, and let the curry simmer. And I will give thanks, and I will taste and celebrate the spicy incense of curry on my tongue and remember what was never meant to fill. 

Alia Joy Hagenbach / Posts / Blog
Alia Joy is a storyteller, speaker, and homeschooling mother of three making her home in Central Oregon. She shares her story in broken bits and pieces on her blog and finds community where other’s stories intersect. She's a cynical idealist who is always trying to find the beautiful bits in the midst of the messy and broken. She believes even the most broken stories have a redeemer and she'll always dance to the good songs. She is a regular contributor at (in)courage, SheLoves, The Mudroom, and Deeper Waters and can be found on twitter hashtagging all the things, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and making goo-goo eyes at her husband.
  • Shannan Martin
    http://shannanmartinwrites.com

    Alia, this is profoundly beautiful. “Food has no morality. ” I’ll be thinking on this for weeks.

    March 22nd, 2017 9:19
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    • Alia Joy

      Thank you! Yes, I could talk all about food and how we attach and do such wonky things with it in our society. 😉

      March 23rd, 2017 22:41
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  • Michele Morin
    http://michelemorin.wordpress.com

    Pondering the beauty of your words, and knowing that no amount of weight loss will erase the “fat girl” tattoo on my brain. When I read about your struggles (and victories) I”m strengthened for my own daily battle for health and wholeness.

    March 22nd, 2017 9:28
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    • Alia Joy

      I’m so glad Michele. Yes, sometimes those thoughts and identities are so indelible on our souls it’s hard to imagine ourselves to be anything but the labels we’ve accepted are ours to carry. I’m so glad God us to more. He calls us by name.

      March 23rd, 2017 22:43
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  • Cheryl Powers

    Loved this! Unfortunately there is too much shame attached to food and body image, if we were looking to Christ and filled with him, we wouldn’t have to compare to ourselves to each other and feel “better than” or “less than.” Thank you for sharing!

    March 22nd, 2017 9:55
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    • Alia Joy

      There is! And yes, comparison is such a trap no matter how we measure up we always end up short.

      March 23rd, 2017 22:44
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  • Katie

    Alia, What a superbly excellent question: “How do I hold in healthy respect the gift of food and celebration with the need for temperance and self-control?”
    Thank you for sharing such truths & wisdom so powerfully!
    Really loved this in your bio: “She’s a cynical idealist (that is SO me!) who is always trying to find the beautiful bits in the midst of the messy and broken.”
    I want to echo each of Cheryl, Michele, and Shannon’s comments and add that by you telling parts of your story here it helped me to see my own in better perspective.
    I too have fought with food, anxiety, depression…
    Thank you most of all for these reminders:
    “…I do know that when I’m lost and can’t see, clearing hindrances is often the only way.”…”I decided to reframe my appetite to season my feasts with fasting and to open my table and my heart to the good things God has set before me.”
    And best of all: “…I get my sustenance from God. I look to Jesus to fill the ache and in all things and for all things I give thanks.”
    Yes, may we look to Christ to fill us, to make us whole!
    Gratefully,
    Katie

    March 22nd, 2017 10:50
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    • Alia Joy

      Thanks Katie. I’m so glad this post resonated with you!

      March 23rd, 2017 22:45
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  • val

    Thank you for this.

    March 22nd, 2017 13:02
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    • Alia Joy

      Thanks for joining me at this table, Val!

      March 23rd, 2017 22:45
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  • Linda Stoll
    http://www.lindastoll.net

    Stunning, thoughtful … powerful wisdom served up with much cause for pause, Alia.

    As always …

    March 22nd, 2017 21:06
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  • Kate

    Alia, thank you for your thoughtful and truthful post. I struggle with the shame and guilt of overeating, indulging in unhealthy you-name-it, and taking comfort in food, though the comfort it brings is temporary. You reminded me so eloquently to “get my sustenance from God” – a reminder I so desperately needed. God bless.

    March 22nd, 2017 22:36
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    • Amy

      Wow, beautifully written!! And there is that “S” word, seemingly at the root of all our comforting behaviors and maybe the ones we overdo in order to stamp out that feeling that makes us want to hide. The feeling we are sure is declaring truth, “I am not good enough”. Shame. There is a reason it is called “toxic” as it is the REAL poison. Thank you for this Alia! Your words are so relatable!

      March 23rd, 2017 10:07
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    • Alia Joy

      I need reminding again and again too. Old habits die hard and those tendencies to fill ourselves are hard to overcome but freedom really does taste like grace. Grace to know we can come to God and be filled again and again and grace for those times when we don’t and He gently calls us back to Him and reminds us where our true sustenance comes from.

      March 23rd, 2017 22:49
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  • Theresa Boedeker
    http://www.TheresaBoedeker.com

    Love this. In our very addicted to looks world it is important to remember that our worth does not come from our food or the size of our shirt. A health-nut is not more holy, or even better than a Burger and Twinkie loving person. Thanks for sharing with us.

    March 23rd, 2017 23:11
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  • Devi
    http://mydailybreadandbutter.com

    I resonated with so much of this, thank you Alia.

    March 24th, 2017 6:04
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  • Jody Collins
    Jody Collins
    https://jodyleecollins.com/

    I remember being 14 years old and standing in our bathroom, hollering at my brother to come zip up my sundress because it was too tight. I put on several pounds over the course of my teenage and college years because everything centered around food. Every occasion, get together, party, everything.
    A few years after I was married (and at my heaviest) I asked God to show me how to lose weight and be well–it took a year to get to ‘normal’ (my normal, anyway).
    Your words resonate, Alia, so many of them. For me, it was never about the food, it was the hole I was trying to fill in my soul. Different things come along from time to time, passing themselves off as satisfying. God continually shows me that He is enough. He is enough.

    March 25th, 2017 14:35
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  • Trish

    So much truth here. Thank you for putting this into words. 💕

    March 26th, 2017 8:43
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  • Jenn Tanaka
    http://www.jenniferltanaka.com

    Oh, Alia, I love all of this. So much struggle when we try to break free of society’s chains only to realize that we are already free when we call upon our Savior. Your words simply move me, and I am blessed and inspired by your constant obedience of writing words. Thank you for sharing this with us. ❤️

    March 31st, 2017 4:28
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  • Mary Carver
    http://marycarver.com

    I’m not brave enough to put these things into words. I’m glad you are. Thank you for this, friend. <3

    March 31st, 2017 13:32
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