Food, Drink, Love and Hate

A few days ago a friend confided that her daughter had anorexia; a few days before that, another friend confided that his son had ‘a major drink problem’. Too fat, too thin, too much, too little: our relationship with food and drink manifests itself in our bodies but goes deeper than that. We know that under/over eating is not just a question of quantity, it has to do with all kinds of things our conscious mind may not be able to grasp. So too with alcohol: a great gift, but for some a terrible curse. How do we make sense of the pain and suffering these things cause? Can we, in fact, ‘make sense’ of something that seems so negative, that makes us hate our bodies?

Lent can be a particularly hard time for people who struggle with food/alcohol issues. For many the concept of fasting has been reduced to dieting, and control is something entirely negative. Our culture isn’t very kind to those who can’t meet its demands. I wonder whether we need to reassert the goodness of what God has created and encourage people to love their bodies instead of hating them? That’s harder than might appear. Very few of us are a ‘perfect’ shape or weight, but does that really matter? Look at a crucifix and you will see yourself as God sees you: someone so infinitely beautiful and precious that he gave his very life for you. The trouble is, anorexia and alcoholism have their own inner logic that defies reason. The argument falls flat.

Ultimately, unless we have some professional skill that can be of service, I think all we can do is to pray and to love. My own personal decision has been to offer my fasting this Lent not just as a penance for my sins but as a plea for the healing of all who suffer from food/alcohol related illnesses.

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6 thoughts on “Food, Drink, Love and Hate”

  1. Our own adult son’s life became enmeshed with the evil of addiction, tearing our family apart. As you so correctly say, addiction has its own inner logic and no amount of urging, support or begging for counseling succeeded in bringing him to therapy. It is a mystifying disease and definitely has an air of the demonic about it. We who are affected by the addictions of others thank you for your Lenten sacrifices in this area. We unite our prayers and fasting with yours in asking Jesus to carry them with him to the cross.

  2. I do like the idea of offering Lenten practices for those with food/drink problems. I commend to your prayers a lovely young woman called Jayne who has a serious eating disorder and believes God won’t love her because of it.

  3. Maria, I, too, will pray for Jayne and will light a candle for her next mass. Disordered eating is a complex problem as we have to eat, unlike using illicit drugs/alcohol in order to live. God loves her and wants to feed her, body and soul.

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