The petite, 5-foot-4 woman stepped up to the podium at a Chicago church and lowered the microphone; her auburn curls framed the gentle smile on her face. Hope Egan doesn't look like a revolutionary, but her book, Holy Cow! Does God Care About What We Eat?, and her passionate endorsement of Old Testament food laws for today's New Testament Christians have been stirring up discussion wherever she goes.
This crowd of 200 Christian women listened intently as Egan shared her struggles with compulsive eating, her discovery of a "biblically kosher" diet, and God's role in the journey.
"I was consumed with thoughts of food," she began. At work, she visited the candy machine several times a day. Though she sat at the same table when eating with others, she wasn't fully present. Instead, she fixated on the food, obsessing about something as simple as a plate of cookies: How many should I eat? We each get three, but I've already eaten my three; there won't be enough if I eat more. Why aren't they eating their share of the cookies? Don't they like these cookies? Will anyone notice if I eat just one more?
Faith in Food
Hope grew up in a secular Jewish community where faith was more cultural than religious. "When I was little, I remember asking my parents whether we were Jewish or Christian because I would forget," she says.
Like most of her Jewish girlfriends, she attended synagogue, took Hebrew lessons, and had a Bat Mitzvah. For Hope, the best part of synagogue was the location—across the street from Carson's Ribs, home of her favorite meal. While the family dabbled in celebrating religious holidays, Hope's memories are of the food, not the faith. "God just wasn't on our radar screen," she says.
Hope's food issues affected those who loved her. As a CPA, she was analytical about balancing input and output. Knowing that she could maintain her weight through compulsive exercise, she would forsake time with friends and family to spend it in the gym.
"If it was sweet, I couldn't have it in the house," she recalls. She didn't stop after one doughnut or cookie; she ate the whole box or bag. "I would throw food into the trash and then later pull it out and eat it." She learned to take drastic steps like pouring water on food before throwing it away.
Hope thought she was in control until a car accident left her unable to exercise. Frustrated by her food compulsions and fearful of gaining weight, she joined a 12-step program—Overeaters Anonymous. The first three steps involved admitting she was powerless over food, acknowledging a higher power, and giving Him control.