Taming The Tiger In The Box

Last week Hannah gave us a frank and truth-filled post about eating disorders here on the blog. So many of you responded, that I thought it was a conversation worth continuing.

In our country alone, as many as ten million young women are fighting a life-threatening battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Experts report a rise in the incidence of anorexia in young women ages fifteen to nineteen every decade since 1930. The incidence of bulimia has tripled in the past fifteen years. Young women are literally dying to fit the mold of our culture.

enslaved to foodThese statistics are alarming, but the disordered eating habits of most young women do not fit into the blanket categories of anorexics or bulimics. In fact, it is my experience that while we don’t all have eating disorders, many of us have disordered eating.

I once heard food described as a tiger in a box. Keeping control of our eating habits is like keeping a tiger locked away. We take it out three times a day to feed it and then lock it away again until hunger strikes. A tiger is not easily controlled and is not likely to allow itself to be locked up without a fight. Food can be the same way. We are forced to interact with food several times a day, and yet our eating patterns can be difficult to control.

Here’s a look at what that might look like in your life.

Crash dieting
You eat well most of the time, but occasionally you freak out about your beauty. You react by starting to diet. One week you’re carb free, the next week you try to eat only fruits and veggies, the next week you vow never to eat cheese again. You rarely have much success losing weight, but dieting gives you a sense of control for a while.

If this is you, you’re in good company. More than 90 percent of women report that they try to control their weight by dieting and 22 percent report that they diet “often” or “always.” But what you may not realize is that 35 percent of “normal” dieters progress to pathological dieters and of those, 20–25 percent develop eating disorders.

Meal skipping
You may be totally healthy. No one would ever accuse you of having an eating disorder, but occasionally you skip a meal or two. Sometimes you skip a meal because you are feeling fat, and depriving yourself of food makes you feel more in control. Sometimes you just get busy and forget to eat. Most of the time, you would rather spend your lunch break catching up with friends than preparing and eating a meal.

But you’ve forgotten that your body is a temple (1 Cor. 6:19). By regularly skipping meals, you are depriving your body of what it needs.

Junk food junkie
You don’t put much thought into what makes it past your lips. Nutrition doesn’t matter much to you, and you are a slave to your sweet tooth. Just like if you were skipping meals or crash dieting, you are making choices that deprive your body of what it needs and failing to treat it like a temple of the Most High God.

Stressed out and overeating
You use food to soothe you when life feels hectic and out of control. Maybe you fill the voids in your heart with too much food. Whenever you feel emotionally or spiritually empty, you make sure that you are physically stuffed. You look fit as a fiddle, but catch you on a day of a big test or a relationship crisis and we would find you hammering a whole tub of Rocky Road. Food is your coping mechanism. Instead of casting your cares to Christ, you have developed a tendency to seek the counsel of Ben and Jerry.

Where do you fit on this list? Can you identify with one or more of these disordered eating patterns? Is this an area where you need to invite Christ to retrain your thoughts and actions? Has food become a wild animal that is difficult for you to control or an area of your life that you try to over-control when the rest of your world starts spinning? If so, you are not alone. That’s why I want us to keep talking about food. Tomorrow on the blog we will look at some biblical principles about food.

In the meantime, I want to hear from you. In what ways do you struggle to keep control of your tiger in a box?

Note: Portions of this post are taken from Erin’s book on true beauty, Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves.

About Author

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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