Many factors lead to obesity. It’s a big problem in our country with 1 in 3 people being obese.
One factor for obesity is childhood sexual abuse. There is a direct correlation between obesity and childhood sexual abuse.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse are far more likely to become obese adults, and they are far more likely to be women than men since more girls than boys suffer from the emotional and spiritual anguish of childhood sexual abuse.
Statistics from The National Center for Victims of Crime show that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized. Children are most vulnerable between the ages of 7 and 13.
Researchers are increasingly finding that those damaged from childhood sexual abuse often become obsessed with food and are prone to binge-eating.
Others willfully put on weight to desexualize themselves to make themselves unattractive and less noticeable to men in the hope that what has happened to them as children will never happen again.
Moreover, those who have unexamined and unresolved childhood trauma from sexual abuse often fail with their attempt to lose weight even with a weight-loss counselor.
Unless the victim can successfully deal with the bitterness of their lost childhood and overcome it, compulsive and addictive eating and other such addictions will continue to make their lives incomplete and miserable.
The trauma of childhood abuse, especially for women, can lead to food abuse, anorexia, bulemia, and obesity.
Emotional eating may be caused by some pain in our past like sexual abuse. We over eat to stuff the pain and all the while keep the abuse a secret out of fear of what others would think about me.
If our father is the abuser, we can’t talk with him out of fear. Will he respond or react in raging anger? Will he admit it or deny that it happened? Will he sincerely apologize or blame you? Such fears keep us away from talking to our father if he was the molester.
We may be afraid to talk to our mom too. You may have told her about what your dad was doing to you when you were a child or teenager. She did nothing. Perhaps, it was her fear of losing him and facing life as a single mom. Or, maybe she didn’t confront him because she thought you were lying. She may possibly have had the same fears you had about confronting him. He might blame her or go into a rage.
Whatever the reasons, one of the unwritten rules of dysfunctional families is “don’t talk.” It’s like the Las Vegas commercial. “Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Whatever happens in our family stays in our family.
Since you couldn’t talk and since you were a powerless child or teen, the only thing you had power over was the food you ate. You ate and became fat and unattractive. You ate away your anxt and stuffed crying emotions with food. You still do if you are overweight and were sexually abused by your dad, another relative, or family “friend.”
Obese women more so than obese men who were mentally and emotionally injuried from childhood sexual abuse make an unconscious effort to untangle their messed up emotions by overeating to make themselves unattractive. It is as if the layer of fat serves as a shield against the outside world. It is an unwitting effort to keep men at a distance.
This dynamic can also work against dieting. A woman goes on a diet and starts to lose weight. Men began to take notice and make sexual overtures. Suddenly confronted with their fears about their sexuality and with painful, unresolved memories, they may quickly go back to overeating to develop the artificial boundary of obesity. They have serious bouts of depression, anxiety, anger and a feeling of hopelessness brought on by nasty memories compounded by obesity. They are attempting to bury these emotions in the graveyard of food.
Obesity caused by childhood sexual abuse is like carrying around a hundred pound weight of anger, guilt, and shame everywhere you go.
You compulsively eat until the pain is numbed. It’s nothing to eat a whole bag of potato chips or a whole package of Oreos in one sitting. The bad emotions go away for a short while but then come back with a vengeance causing more eating. Food is the pain-killing drug of choice. It doesn’t require a prescription. It’s readily available, and it’s a cheap, temporary fix.
Is their any hope for such hopelessness? The answer is a resounding YES!
Dr. Tim Sledge, author of the Christian self-help work book, Making Peace with Your Past, writes that there are four steps to recovery: Tell. Release. Confront. Add.
Find a safe person to tell about your violated past such as a trusted friend, pastor-counselor, or psychologist who will not divulge your secret.
To tell means you’re not going to carry your burden any longer alone. There is strength and healing in telling. James 5:16 states, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Let me make it clear; however, you are not the one who sinned. You were the one violated and sinned against.
Yet, in the transaction of telling, you will find healing and the ability to pray powerfully and effectively. Your hearer should pray with you after your telling. That prayer will be powerful and effective. God will work in the moment in wonderful ways. You will experience God’s cleansing, freedom, and wholeness in your prayer and from the prayer of the one to whom you told your secret. You will feel human again instead of like an object that was used to gratify lust.
There is power in telling. It means you have escaped from the chains of the past that held you in bondage.
Best of all, Jesus hears your telling. You will feel your emotions and spirit overflow with release from His comfort, understanding, and compassion. It will be as if the dam burst and your emotions flow out like a river making you alive again.
Release always follows telling. Be released from your bondage. Tell and then feel the bad flow out and the good inundate you with God’s love
Then, confront the abuser. It takes great courage to confront. It takes dealing with your fear of confronting. You have been living in shame long enough. It’s his shame – not your shame.
If you decide to confront him don’t do it in anger. Deal with your anger before the meeting so that you don’t react. The key is to respond rather than react. Tell him matter of factly the pain he caused you which you have carried around all these years.
Expect the worst. Hope for the best.
The worst is that he will explode in rage, blame you again, and sabitage your feelings. Or, he may sit there like a bump on a log ignoring you. He might just huff off and leave.
The best is that he will apologize with deep, heartfelt remorse.
If fear keeps you from confronting your abuser, or if great distance separates you from him, or if he is dead, write a letter to tell him your emotions. Let it out. Let it all out. That in itself brings healing. Then, keep the letter or tear it up. Some burn it to signify that he no longer haunts their memory or has control of them. Tearing it up or burning it acts like a purging catharsis releasing and purifying your damaged emotions.
The last step is adding Jesus in the whole process. Of course, He has been with you through it all even if you weren’t aware of His presence. But in this step, you consciously and purposefully add Jesus from the very beginning of your steps to recovery.
By doing this by faith, you will be conscious of His strength. You can’t progress through these steps in your own power. Fear and anger can overwhelm you. You need His calming peace and presence to give you courage to carry on when you feel yourself weaken.
You will be conscious of Christ’s great love demonstrated for you on the cross. He loved you enough to bear your burden, carry your sorrow, and feel your pain. You will feel loved, and out of His love, you will be able to love yourself. Any condemnation or self-hate you have toward yourself will disapate as you feel His arms around you holding you close, taking your hand and putting it in His, and tenderly drying your tears with His other hand.
What about forgiving the one who stole your childhood and virtue? Forgive? Are you kidding me? Forgive him for what he did to me? Don’t you understand how badly I’ve been hurt? What he did to me is no little thing. It’s not ok. It’s a big deal! I can’t dismiss it as though it never happened.
We want vengeance and not forgiveness. We want something bad to happen to him. But, leave the vengeance to God. “Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it” (Romans 12:19 MSG).
Forgiveness does not mean you are condoning his violent act against you or pretending that nothing ever happened.
Forgiveness is like a bank canceling a debt. It’s a big deal. It’s costly for the bank to forgive the debt and accept the loss. It’s costly for you also to forgive the injustice perpetrated against you.
The sin against you is serious. Forgiveness does not endorse his doing it again or condoning what he did. Forgiving a debt from the past doesn’t mean reconciliation either. That’s a whole different matter.
You probably have heard the saying, “forgive and forget.” That’s erroneous. You can’t forget nor should you. At the same time, you can’t wallow in what happened in the past either allowing it to dominate your life.
Forgiveness means that he will no longer master your emotions. You will experience freedom from shame and guilt and no longer roll around stuck in the mud.
Forgiveness is for you and not him.
Forgiveness allows you to move on in joyful wholeness. Forgiveness is the key to your restoration and total makeover.
By forgiving, you also release your built up emotions of anger, fear, and hatred that you feel. Forgiveness is cleansing.
Forgiveness is the beginning of a new life where God redeems that terrible chapter written in your autobiography of memories. It is the first step to overcoming being obese or overweight. Forgive and God can and will redeem the miserable suffering you experienced. Through His redemption, you will be able to chart your path to eating small portions of healthy food and getting active like walking and stick with it.
No more binge eating. No more yo-yo dieting. It will be one day at a time. One pound at a pound. You will be empowered by even a little success to keep going until you reach your weight goal. Success breeds success. You will feel better about yourself, your body image, and life in general. That’s my prayer for you.
By submitting your past to Christ who gives us the power and courage to forgive, you are letting go rather than holding on to it, hiding it, or being ashamed of it. The past is over. That was then. This is now.
You cannot forgive in your own power. You can’t heal your past, but God can and will bring healing in your life. It may happen in an instant, but more than likely, complete healing is going to take time to sort through all of your tangled emotions.
A safe friend, a pastor-counselor, a Christian support group, and Christian self-help books can help tremendously. Avail yourself of the many resources that are out there. Many women have written self-help books out of their painful past. Christian psychologists have written good books to help sort it all out. Seek out helpful, safe people and helpful resources. Know that you are not alone. You aren’t the only one suffering.
Let Christ heal you. He is the balm of Gilead. Face the pain. Share it with others who are trustworthy. Give your painful past to Jesus.
The healing process is both psychological and spiritual, but the foundation of the healing process is a spiritual matter. It is a matter of letting go and letting God have control of your past, present, and future.