The Weight of Sorrow

“Compulsion is despair on the emotional level.  The substances, people, or activities we become compulsive about are those we believe capable of taking our despair away…Compulsive behavior, at its most fundamental, is a lack of self-love; it is an expression of a belief that we are not good enough.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

For many abuse victims, food takes on an importance far and above its ability to nourish.  We eat our anger, stuff our guilt (misplaced though it is).  We use food both as a reward and a punishment.

The smallest morsel can set in motion a binge.

Weight issues feed into the sense of loneliness and isolation abuse victims already feel.  The life opportunities of which weight deprives us should be penalty enough.  But our losses generate regrets, and we carry those regrets forward, along with the pounds.

Purposes Behind Compulsive Eating

Like drinking to excess, compulsive eating serves two basic purposes.  While ostensibly numbing our pain, it actually recreates the emotional experience of abuse – our fear, our helplessness, our shame, our rage, our self-recrimination.  And it re-affirms (albeit in a dysfunctional way) that we deserve to have our needs met.


“We had nothing to do with the reasons our parents abused or left or violated us.  We believed we did because blaming ourselves for the sorrow gave us some measure of control over it.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

Though we were not abandoned, neglected, or abused because of what we weighed, weight issues become a “safe” focus for the emotions associated with our abuse.

We can now blame ourselves for the negative feelings the abuse caused, rather than blaming the loved ones who inflicted it on us.  But the least dieting failure feels like a sin, as well as a defeat.

Spiritual Attack

Abuse leaves us vulnerable to spiritual attack.  We are more likely to believe the lies which are Satan’s stock in trade.  Here are a few examples, relative to compulsive eating:

  • I’m starving.  I need this food.  I have to have it.
  • I’m disgusting.  I can’t even control myself.
  • I’ll never find love.  I don’t deserve to be loved.
  • How can God can stand me?  I should just kill myself.

Binary or rigid, black and white thinking (known psychologically as “splitting”) is one approach Satan employs to convey these lies.

Binary thinking reduces all situations to two, mutually exclusive options [1].  Under such reasoning, we are either perfect or hopeless, ideal or dreadful.  There is no room for nuance, no room for error.  And no possibility of God extending us mercy.

This is, however, a false dichotomy.

Breaking the Chains

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
” (Isa. 58: 6).

By His death on the cross and Resurrection, Christ broke the chains of sin and death that once bound us.  It is not His desire that abuse victims stagger forward under insupportable burdens of despair, regret, self-blame, and self-loathing.

This knowledge will not produce an overnight cure.  But it does have the power to sustain us, as we work through our pain.  With counseling and God’s help, we can leave the weight of sorrow behind.

[1]  The TalkSpace Voice, “5 Ways Black and White Thinking Poisons Your Perspective” by Reina Gattuso, 7/31/18, .




Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

17 responses to “The Weight of Sorrow

  1. Great information Anna.
    There could be many who did not recognize past or present abuse as a key to their eating disorder.

  2. Anna, always a beacon for the troubled- you’re a saint! Blessings.

  3. Ohhh. So full of insight. One cannot see what one cannot see. Sometimes all we can do is light a candle & pray.

  4. Thank you for this post Anna. It is so important that people understand that while forgiveness of sin is immediate in Christ, repairing the damage brought on by years of abuse is a process that can take years. As you say, there is no magic cure. We must be committed to the process.

    • Thank you for commenting, my friend. It is always good to hear your voice.

      The Bible tells us how much God loves those of us who have been abused. “He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147: 3). This does not, of course, mean that God wished abuse upon us. We are promised that “He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor“(Ps. 72: 4).

      God’s timing is another matter. Understandably, we want relief in the here and now. Because human beings are complex, however, healing is a process. For some that process takes longer than for others. Indeed, some abuse victims end their lives too soon, the pain is so great.

      Trusting God while the process is underway can be a challenge. In that sense, God uses abuse to “grow” our faith. He sees us from an eternal perspective, and knows the eternal rewards He has in store for us.

      In the final analysis, justice will be done. That means victims will be fully restored…if not in this life, then the next.

  5. Dear Anna,

    When I was in the seventh grade we lived in a small town and my father was the teacher in our science and math classes in Jr. High. I remember how excited I was to be in his class and how hard I studied before our first science test so that I would make him proud of me. Well, I aced the test except he took off five points for a misspelled word. He later told me that he did it so that other kids wouldn’t think I was his favourite. Well, this event set in motion in me a “what’s the use of studying” mindset and I was a mediocre “C” student from then on. He knew I was smarter than that and I am sure I was an embarrassment to him… being seen as a teacher with such a “dumb kid.” Funny things is, many years after God doing a deep work in my heart I finally went to college, received high marks and I was asked to join an honor society. 🙂

    With this in mind, how often does putting on weight become a defence mechanism especially if in the process of being abused the person was told that they are beautiful? They reason, “If being beautiful has brought this abuse on me in my life, I will put on weight and not take care of myself so that I will no longer be desirable and avoid being abused ever again.” I have seen many overweight people that are totally downcast and I have to wonder if sexual abuse isn’t part of what has happened in their lives. Love and prayer for them is surely the key to God’s undoing what the enemy has done, wouldn’t you say?

    We love you, Anna
    Michael ❤

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