NEDA week: Encouragement for Those Walking Through an Eating Disorder

*Trigger warning – Below I share my experience through bulimia and recovery. If this is something that would be triggering for you please take heed. It is not my intention to cause anyone to stumble. I strongly believe the church drops the ball when it comes to speaking on eating disorders and as such this is simply my way of trying to open the door for anyone who may need it. Help is available. Recovery is possible. I am not an eating disorder therapist, nor is it something my ministry is largely based around. I simply have a heart to help women who find themselves on this road get to the other side.

It is estimated that 9 percent of the population struggles with some form of an eating disorder. That is over 702 million people world wide. A staggering statistic to be sure, but try not to let it overwhelm you. I think sometimes when we hear of a problem on such a grand scale it’s easy to forget that each of the numbers behind said statistic are representative of an actual life; individuals who are sisters, mothers, brothers, fathers, teachers, nurses, friends, spouses; people who are loved and cherished. These disorders affect primarily women, but according to the research, men make up a startling 10-15% of the above statistic.

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Disordered eating can be triggered by any number of factors; impossible societal standards, diet culture, sports performance pressures, trauma, abuse… you name it, eating disorders do not discriminate. This is my story. My disorder started after growing up in a non-typical childhood home with a challenging living situation – I will not disclose details regarding this as its more than simply my personal story and I want to respect others involved. It all began the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school. In my mind’s eye I can still see myself sitting in my room, reading a Christian fiction book, in which the main character had bulimia. The author of this book had unintentionally painted eating disorders as a way to deal with a difficult situation, a way of escape. I say unintentionally because I don’t think someone who came from a healthy situation would have picked up on this. I want to believe the heart of the author was to point out things that would not be helpful and eventually lead the reader to God as the only One who is ever enough. Unfortunately, that is not what I took from the book. I wish I could tell you I put the idea out of my head and never thought of bulimia again but that is simply not the case. I purged that evening and that single purge was the stepping stone to a years long battle with bulimia.

Today I can tell you that there is hope because I have walked through the fire and built a life (on the foundation of Christ) on the other side. I am in active recovery – I compare it to those in recovery of alcohol “once an alcoholic…” those in recovery of any kind must be careful. I have walked through the fire and realized that the entire time God was there right by my side. He has never once left me alone to deal with the chains that so easily entangled me. Sister, if you find yourself in the middle of a similar battle with food I want to encourage you. There is hope and you can recover. I know the voice inside tells you you cannot. I know its the most terrifying idea ever. I know you feel alone. I know it calls you back time and time again (there are still times I can hear its echo). If you are here on this blog, I have to also assume you have at the very least heard of Christ. More importantly than me seeing and hearing, He does, the very one who knit you together in your mothers womb, who delights in every square inch of you, the one who is called Jehova Rapha – your healer. He longs to restore and redeem you. To make you whole.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Our God is not stopped by difficulty, He does not shy away from a challenge or leave us in the fire alone. I am confident He will stand with us come what may.

I sincerely wish I could give you the precise steps to take to recover but friends, I do not have that information for you. The puzzle is different for each one of us. That said, the following have been foundational in my journey to freedom.

1). Get right with God. This is hands down the most important thing you can do. I do not believe eating disorders in and of themselves are sin. I believe they are mental illnesses and must be dealt with accordingly. However, I will make a bet that if you have been walking down this road it has distanced you from God. Go to Him today and hand Him your heart – all those messy, imperfect, beautiful pieces. Don’t be shy, He already knows about them, you cannot hide from God. He wants to wrap His arms around you and heal you. We know from Micah 7:19 that God throws our sins into the depths of the sea, so for those parts of the disorder that are steeped in sin there is a place at the foot of the cross for each one of us!

2). Find your tribe – if you are serious about recovery (and I hope you are because life on the other side of an eating disorder is beautiful) it is life-giving to find people you can trust to hold your arms up when things get rough. These are people who will commit to pray for you and ask you how you’re doing and then have the audacity to look at you sideways with a “no, I mean how are you really doing?” They are the people who know your triggers and are able to help you navigate around them. Surround yourself with people who love you and want to step into the fight with you.
Please know also that I am an open ear if you ever need to discuss anything related to an eating disorder with someone who has been there. My email is cultivatingjewels@gmail.com I am a safe place should you need one.

3). Find a Christian therapist – I cannot over emphasize this. You cannot get unstuck on your own, if we could we would have done so when we first realized how out of hand and controlling the disorder was becoming. A therapist is trained to come along side you and help with your hurts, habits and hangups – including your eating disorder. A Christian therapist helps point your towards Christ in your recovery. I am a proponent of everyone attending therapy no matter what the issues are – we live in a broken world and need people in our corner.

Sweet friend, I want you to know (really know) that God loves you with a never ending, always and forever love that has the power to change your life. Run to His wide open arms and drop your chains at His feet. He is waiting to set you free. He is waiting to replace the voice of your eating disorder with one that tells you you are worthy because He is, that you matter to Him and that He holds you close to His heart.

Lean into His everlasting strength!

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