February 2014 archive

How to Eat a Meal with Someone Struggling with an Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder Awareness- How to eat a meal with someone struggling with an eating disorder

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and am not trained in eating disorder treatment or prevention. I struggled with disordered eating/eating disorders for 12 years and I am now in recovery. My purpose behind writing these posts is to start the conversation about eating disorders, sildenafil which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, share my experience with those who have eating disorders or know others who do, and to hopefully give some clarity and understanding about these complicated and dangerous diseases. I also want to give hope that recovery is possible!
Trigger warnings: In all of my posts about eating disorders, I try to be very sensitive and avoid triggering language. However, the reality is that I am talking about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and recognize that these posts could trigger people struggling with EDs. If you think that these posts could be the least bit triggering for you, please do not read them. The last thing I want to do is to set anyone back in their recovery process.

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So your daughter, son, friend, roommate, wife, husband, sister, brother is struggling with an eating disorder. You feel helpless and don’t know how to talk to them or help them. And then comes the tension of meal times. Are they eating? How are they eating? Do they look distressed? What do I say? I can’t stop staring at them…

Let’s just get this out in the open—eating meals with a loved ones who is struggling with an ED can be very tense, stressful, and painful for everyone. Here are some tips to make these meal times better for everyone. Many of these things I learned while eating meals together with other girls in treatment—we had to seriously support each other through those meal times, but we all managed to get through each and every one of them. This advice is based on my own personal experience- I am not a psychologist and this advice may not right for everyone. I think most of my tips are probably applicable and helpful for most people with an ED, but EDs are so unique and different so don’t use this list as an excuse for not having a conversation with your loved one about what they would specifically find helpful.

Helpful Tips:

  • DO NOT talk about eating disorders at the dinner table. EVER. Don’t talk to your loved one about their eating disorder, about someone else’s eating disorder, or EDs in general. Don’t mention any ED behaviors, don’t talk about body image, low self esteem, or weight. Your loved one is being SCREAMED AT by their ED throughout their entire meal and they need you to help them get their mind off of their ED, not on it.
  • DO NOT talk about the food you’re eating. Typically when people are eating food, they’ll comment on what they’re eating, they’ll talk about other food they’ve eaten in the past, etc. Don’t do it. I would suggest not even saying whether you like the meal or not. Just don’t talk about it at all. Do not talk about calories, fat, nutrition value, portion size, your new diet, or anything related to food! Your loved one is analyzing everything about the food they’re eating and they don’t need you to add to the conversation happening in their head.
  • DO NOT talk about exercising or working out, going to the gym, participating in sports, burning calories, your new exercise regiment, your muscles, or anything having to do with your body.
  • DO NOT talk about any controversial or stressful topics. Don’t get into arguments with other family members. Don’t talk about politics or religion. Anything that might make the conversation get at all heated has to be off limits. Trying to get through a meal is hard enough for your loved one—don’t add additional stress and tension to the situation with your topics of conversation.
  • DO NOT stare at your loved one. They already feel self-conscious and know that you’re keeping your eye on them. Try not to stare—it will just make them feel more self-conscious.
  • DO have continuous conversation throughout the meal. Think of light but interesting conversation topics and keep conversation going throughout the meal, trying to bring your loved on into the conversation. During our meals in treatment, we talked throughout the entire meal and if we could see that one person was having an especially hard time, we would intentionally try to bring them into the conversation, asking them specific questions to help involve them. This helps keep your loved one’s mind off of the food they’re eating.
  • DO model good eating behavior. One thing that we talk about in treatment is the idea of matching the meals eaten by the healthy people around us. If you are not eating a healthy-sized, balanced meal, how can you expect your loved one to do so? I remember one girl in treatment sharing that she had a really hard time eating carbs, especially bread. Her mom would never eat bread during meals and this made it that much harder for the daughter to convince herself to eat bread. Then at one meal, her mom ate a piece of bread along with dinner. What didn’t mean much to the mom was incredibly significant for the daughter and helped her make good food choices for herself and eat bread with more ease. I know that sometimes dinner rolls around and you’re not that hungry, or you don’t like the food, or you’re on a new diet. However, you have the responsibility to model good eating behavior, meaning that you need to eat a full, healthy sized meal when you’re eating with your loved one. Yeah, I know it’s not fair, but eating disorders aren’t fair to anyone. Your loved one is watching you and noticing all the food you eat constantly, so make sure that you are modeling good eating habits and behavior.
  • DO NOT get frustrated if/when your loved one is having a hard time. I can’t tell you how many times I cried during meals in treatment. Meals are harder than you could ever imagine—they are intense, anxiety-producing experiences. Most likely, you cannot understand why these times are so emotionally charged, and that can be frustrating. However, if you do things like roll your eyes or say things like, “just eat, it’s not a big deal!” or “you’re being silly/stupid,” you are being incredibly unhelpful. You need to be loving, supportive, and try to understand what it happening with your loved one. Sometimes it’s best to just sit quietly with your loved one, not saying anything but showing your support with your presence. Sometimes it might be helpful for you to ask your loved one what they’re feeling, and then listen without judgment or input as they share.
  • DO have important conversations about meal times BEFORE meal times occur. For example, ask your loved one what would make meals easier for them. Make a game plan with them and their psychologist about how you’re going to handle meal times. If you’re having dinner with people who maybe aren’t as informed about good meal behavior, have a conversation with them before the meal and if things start getting into rocky territory during the meal, steer things in the right direction. If you have set expectations for the meal time–what will be eaten, what sorts of conversations you’re going to have, how you are going to support your loved one, you can at least ensure that everyone is one the same page and in the moment disagreements or misunderstandings are less likely to occur.

I hope these tips are helpful. Feel free to ask any questions/clarification points you may have in the comments below :)

If you want to learn more about eating disorders, click here to read more of the posts I’ve written on the topic.

Things you say that contribute to eating disorder culture

Don’t be like grumpy cat. Think about the language you use and how it could be hurting you or those around you.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and am not trained in eating disorder treatment or prevention. I struggled with disordered eating/eating disorders for 12 years and I am now in recovery. My purpose behind writing these posts is to start the conversation about eating disorders, this which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, visit this share my experience with those who have eating disorders or know others who do, erectile and to hopefully give some clarity and understanding about these complicated and dangerous diseases. I also want to give hope that recovery is possible!
Trigger warnings: In all of my posts about eating disorders, I try to be very sensitive and avoid triggering language. However, the reality is that I am talking about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and recognize that these posts could trigger people struggling with EDs. If you think that these posts could be the least bit triggering for you, please do not read them. The last thing I want to do is to set anyone back in their recovery process.

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I hear things on a daily basis that contribute to eating disorder culture and it makes me really sad, but I also know that because eating disorder language is so embedded in our culture, a lot of the time people say things without realizing that what they’re saying is hugely problematic and potentially harmful. This is a short list of some commonly said things that I wish everyone would stop saying:

  • Saying things like, “I’ve been so good today!” or “I’m being so bad!” when referring to eating healthy/unhealthy foods or working out/not working out. Language like this ties your self worth to the food you eat and the workouts you do. It is super common for people with eating disorders to think that they are bad when they eat or eat particular foods and that they are good when they use ED behaviors such as restricting, purging, exercising, etc. Your language confirms what people with eating disorders already think about themselves and it also sets you up to have dangerous disordered thoughts.
  • Constantly talking about/posting to social media how many calories you’ve burned, sizes you’ve dropped, weight you’ve lost, inches you’ve reduced, workouts you’ve completed. I get that it’s exciting when you meet fitness goals and you want to share. But when you share your victories, you could be severely triggering others. Additionally, your constant focus on numbers could turn your diet/quest for health or fitness into dangerous disordered thought and behavior patterns. Note: many eating disorders start with diets.
  • Talking about how many calories are in the food you’re eating or commenting on what other people choose to eat. I have two stories to illustrate this point:—A few weeks ago I was in the dining hall, waiting in line to get dinner. I was standing near a milkshake machine and these two girls walked up to it. One girl said, “I’ve never had one of these! I’m going to get one!” and I could tell she was looking forward to it. Her friend said, “Ok, but since I’m your friend I feel like I have to tell you–those things have like 700 calories.” And you know what? The girl walked out of the dining hall without her milkshake.—One of the amazing girls I met in treatment ended treatment the same day I did–we were both leaving to start our freshmen years of college. We would occasionally call each other that first semester of freshmen year to encourage each other or to get support if we were having a hard time. My friend struggled with anorexia and she needed to restore weight. One day she was in the dining hall, eating her meal, when a guy, who she didn’t know, came up to her and said, “Wow, you eat a lot.”—What good does your commenting on the caloric content/nutrition value/portion size of another person’s meal do? You have no idea what the person you’re talking with is battling. When you stop commenting on the food you or others are eating, you avoid potentially triggering others and causing them massive setbacks, and you also free yourself from having to obsess about the food you yourself consume.
  • Justifying the food you’re eating by saying things like, “I can eat this because I worked out earlier.” You should not have to justify the food you chose to eat or feel judged because of what you’re eating.
  • Saying things like: “You look so great!” or “Have you lost weight? You look amazing!” I know the intention behind comments like this is to be encouraging. However, when you comment on someone’s outer appearance, you’re confirming that people care about and are paying attention to that person’s body/weight/appearance. At one point, my eating disorder caused me to lose a lot of weight and so many people told me that I looked awesome. I wonder if they would have told me how great I looked if they knew that I had an eating disorder and that, after a while, my body started shutting down because of the lack of food. And then when I started restoring some weight and improving my physical health, people who knew that I was struggling with an eating disorder continued to comment on how good I looked. Wait, so why is that bad? You would think that this would have been encouraging, right? The reality is that, for me, it just communicated that every time my close family members and friends saw me, they were analyzing my body. I do think that for some people who are restoring weight, it can be encouraging to hear things like, “You look healthy,” and “You’re beautiful,” and I don’t think it’s bad to occasionally say things like, “You’re pretty” or “You look good!” to anyone in your life, but I do think we need to 1. Cut back on all compliments that focus on outer appearance, 2. Seriously cut back on compliments concerning weight-loss or body size, 3. Drastically increase the encouragements we give people that have to do with their inner selves and their core identities rather than outer appearance.
  • Making idiotic jokes like these below. I can’t tell you how many people told me these exact jokes or ones very similar while I was struggling with anorexia and binge eating disorder. If you think these jokes are funny or have ever said jokes along these lines, you need to realize that you are fueling eating disorder culture by trivializing diseases that destroy lives. And in anticipation to what many of you are thinking: Yes, I do realize that I may take this “too seriously” and might need to “lighten up.” But my eating disorder took years of my life that I will never get back and I’m one of the lucky ones–I am alive and in recovery (Praise the Lord). In my opinion, the deadliest psychological disorder cannot be taken too seriously.

Note: I understand that Kat Dennings is probably trying to be funny/promote healthy body image. However, she is trivializing anorexia by suggesting that it’s something people choose. While there are some pro-ana communities that promote anorexia as a valid lifestyle choice, the vast majority of people with anorexia never set out to be anorexic–the deadly disease infiltrated their body and mind. Her statement would be just as ridiculous if she said, “I tried cancer once and then I was like, nope not for me.” Her statement makes it seem that anyone with anorexia is choosing to be that way and that they could stop anytime they wanted to just by eating a bagel.

This clip below is from an episode of Shake it Up, a Disney Channel show. Demi Lovato, who has struggled with an eating disorder for quite a while, saw this episode and tweeted that she thought the joke was absolutely terrible and inappropriate. Disney did decide to pull the episode in respond to Lovato’s criticism. However, this episode shouldn’t have had to be pulled because this joke should NEVER have been in there in the first place. Absolutely disgusting.

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My purpose in writing this post is not to condemn anyone or make anyone feel bad, rather my goal is to bring awareness to how we can all help and love each other and ourselves better. I encourage you to be careful about the language you use and the things you do. Our words have immense power (Proverbs 12:18Proverbs 18:21, Proverbs 16:24, John 1:1, John 8:31-32, Revelation 12:11). The reality is that people struggling with eating disorders, low self esteem, and disordered eating quite often look completely normal. You cannot know what the people around you are struggling with, so please think about the things you do and say that might be triggering and that fuel eating disorder culture. Making these changes could have such positive effects not only on your siblings, friends, roommates, children, and other loved ones, but they could help you positively change your inner thought life and help you love yourself more and treat yourself better.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle  ~Unknown

To learn more about eating disorders, click here to read more posts I’ve written on the topic.

Unhelpful things Christians say about eating disorders and how you can actually be helpful

Eating Disorder Awareness- Unhelpful things Christians say about eating disorders and how you can actually be helpful

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and am not trained in eating disorder treatment or prevention. I struggled with disordered eating/eating disorders for 12 years and I am now in recovery. My purpose behind writing these posts is to start the conversation about eating disorders, approved which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, share my experience with those who have eating disorders or know others who do, and to hopefully give some clarity and understanding about these complicated and dangerous diseases. I also want to give hope that recovery is possible!
Trigger warnings: In all of my posts about eating disorders, I try to be very sensitive and avoid triggering language. However, the reality is that I am talking about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and recognize that these posts could trigger people struggling with EDs. If you think that these posts could be the least bit triggering for you, please do not read them. The last thing I want to do is to set anyone back in their recovery process.

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My fellow believers helped me so much in overcoming my eating disorder with the ways that they loved and supported me through some of the darkest times of my life. I think one of the most amazing and profound parts of the Church is its ability to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who are suffering. It’s an incredible thing when brothers and sisters in Christ rally around each other in community. However, I sometimes found that it was the Christians around me who, with every intention to help and love me, said things to me about my eating disorder that ended up being really hurtful. We all have people in our lives who we truly love and care about, and it’s painful for us when we find out that they’re suffering. Often times, believers (myself included) hear about the suffering of our loved ones and it causes us to want to do something or say something to help. And while our intentions are good, a lot of the time we start giving our opinions and our theology. I know I’m for sure guilty of doing this. And when we respond this way, we can cause more pain and feelings of inadequacy in someone who is already struggling.

In this post I’m going to give some examples of those statements, why they’re hurtful, and what some better methods for encouraging and supporting our brothers and sisters struggling with eating disorders. We want to be a loving community that builds each other up!

Here’s a common Christian response to eating disorders:

“These things you’re believing are lies from Satan and you just need to say no to them.”

“You just need to believe what God says about you, not Satan.”

“God says you’re beautiful, and if you’re believing anything else, you’re letting yourself be deceived by the Enemy.”

“You need to press in to the Lord, pray for healing, and ask God to show you how He sees you.”

All of these statements are true. As I said in the last post, Satan can use your eating disorder to tell you lies that make you question your identity. And in those times, you do need to listen to God, who does say that you are perfect, precious, and beautiful.

And yet, these sentences have the power to hurt Christians struggling with eating disorders. Why, you ask? How could solid Biblical, Godly truth be harmful?

The worst time in my life was the two years in high school that I was sickest in my eating disorder. But my eating disorder wasn’t what made these years the darkest in my life. The reason why they were so hard was because during those years of my life, I believed that God did not love me. I knew in my mind that God loves everyone, including me, but in my soul I was so deceived that I believed that God no longer loved me. So why do I think you should stop saying things like those above? Because statements like those give the impression that you are really saying:

“If you were actually trusting God, you would not be struggling.”

“You are failing God and yourself because you are listening to Satan. You need to stop it.”

“If you really had faith and really prayed, you would not be struggling with this.”

I hear you saying, “But that’s not what I mean at all!” and I believe you. But believe me when I say that this is how it can come off. Very rarely is it helpful for us to respond to suffering with our opinions and theology. One thing we have to keep in mind is that people with eating disorders do not choose to have eating disorders. As I talked about in the last post, there are biological, social, psychological, and spiritual causes and components of eating disorders. If you say things like the statements above, it’s like telling a cancer patient to just not have cancer anymore. It doesn’t work and can end up being very hurtful.

Another common response to eating disorders is this:

“God is testing you with this eating disorder in order to strengthen your faith.”

“God gives us struggles and hard times like this eating disorder because He knows that once you come out on the other side and recover, you will be able to impact so many people for His Kingdom.”

If you ever say anything like this to me or around me, I will have to draw upon ever ounce of the Holy Spirit and my love for Christ in order to keep myself from grabbing you, shaking you, and perhaps screaming all at the same time. My reaction to your words is not Christ-like and believe me, I pray for the strength of the Lord to grow in humility and love towards those I disagree with. However, if these are the words you choose to use, you are not, dare I say it, being Christ-like either.

How does Christ react to those around Him suffering and struggling? Let’s look at the story of the boy possessed by a demonic spirit in Mark 9:

A man in the crowd said, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.”
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he said, “God has given your son this spirit to test him and strengthen his faith. Be patient–maybe God will cast out the spirit in a few years, but for now your son needs to embrace his torment for it will allow him to further impact the Kingdom of God in years to come.”

OH WAIT. Jesus never said that, in fact He never said anything even remotely along those lines when he encountered people who were suffering. Instead He says:

“You deaf and mute spirit I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Jesus replies with love and healing. That’s it. If that’s how Jesus responds, that is how we need to respond to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling. If your theological view is that God brings about suffering in order to test us and to later bring redemption in our lives, first of all I would suggest you read my Who Rules the World series, just to hear a different perspective. But even if you don’t change your mind about your theology (which is ok, it’s ok for us as believers to disagree with each other), I beg you to please keep your theology to yourself when faced with the serious suffering of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

So if we can’t respond with statements like those above, what can we do to help our loved ones? Here are some ideas:

  • Pray. Pray for them all the time. Pray for them when you’re alone, when you’re in your church, in your small group, with your family, with your friends. Pray for them to receive full freedom from the Lord. Pray with confidence that God desires your loved one to be healed and to live in freedom. Pray with your loved one–pray protection over them to keep them safe against the schemes of the enemy, pray for joy, pray for peace.
  • Encourage them with truth. Instead of saying things like, “You need to press in to God and see what He says about you,” tell them what God thinks of them! Tell them that they’re beautiful and loved. Tell them that the Lord was with them when they were formed in the secret place. Tell them that God is proud of them. Tell them that you’re proud of them. Write notes filled with encouragements, prophetic words, scriptures, and song lyrics. Tell them that God desires recovery for them and is faithful to His children. Tell them that their eating disorder is not their fault and that no one blames them. It might take years for these words to sink in, but words of truth, love, and encouragement are never spoken in vain. Note: If your loved one is not a believer, still encourage them but I would suggest taking some time to discern whether it’s going to be helpful or hurtful to them to give them things like scripture constantly.
  • Give them your time and attention. Instead of offering your own opinion, listen without judgment. Instead of walking away in frustration, give the gift of your presence. Eating disorders have the tragic effect of separating those struggling with them from community and from relationship with Jesus. Your loved ones need you to show the love and persistence of Christ to them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts :) How do you think we can better build up our brothers and sisters in Christ?

If you’re interesting in learning more about eating disorders, you can read other posts I’ve written on the topic by clicking here

What Causes Eating Disorders? Biological, Social, Psychological, and Spiritual Factors

eating disorder awareness-what causes eating disorders? Biological, <a href=page Social, troche Psychological, and Spiritual Factors” src=”http://www.heismakingeverythingnew.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/eating-disorder-awareness-what-causes-eating-disorders-Biological-Social-Psychological-and-Spiritual-Factors.jpg&#8221; width=”600″ height=”600″ />

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and am not trained in eating disorder treatment or prevention. I struggled with disordered eating/eating disorders for 12 years and I am now in recovery. My purpose behind writing these posts is to start the conversation about eating disorders, which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, share my experience with those who have eating disorders or know others who do, and to hopefully give some clarity and understanding about these complicated and dangerous diseases. I also want to give hope that recovery is possible!
Trigger warnings: In all of my posts about eating disorders, I try to be very sensitive and avoid triggering language. However, the reality is that I am talking about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and recognize that these posts could trigger people struggling with EDs. If you think that these posts could be the least bit triggering for you, please do not read them. The last thing I want to do is to set anyone back in their recovery process.

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I believe that there is real spiritual warfare going on in and around us right now in this world, and I believe this for many reasons including the vast Biblical evidence and my own personal experience. As someone who has suffered from a variety of psychological disorders during my life and who is working to become a therapist, I frequently think about the intersection of psychological disorders and the battles taking place in the spiritual realm. While that is a topic way too big to address in this one post, and I honestly have not come to a complete conclusion of what I believe is the relationship between the demonic and psychological disorders, in this post I’m going to give you a few of my thoughts on why people get eating disorders.

So why do people struggle with eating disorders? Here are the three factors typically mentioned:

1. Biological factors there have been a lot of studies done that show the biological roots of eating disorders (here is just one study). Just as people can be born predisposed towards schizophrenia, alcoholism, and mood disorders, some people are born predisposed to developing eating disorders. Think about it this way: the vast majority of women in the U.S. will diet at least once in their lives, they are all exposed to similar media messages, they come from a variety of socioeconomic statues and family backgrounds, and yet there are estimated to be around 8-9 million women in the U.S. who suffer from eating disorders…that’s only about 3% of the population. So how is it that some women develop EDs and others don’t? Part of the answer is biology. It is estimated that 50-80% of the risk for developing EDs is due to genetic/biological factors.

2. Social Factors Just because you’re predisposed to eating disorders biologically doesn’t mean that you will necessarily have an ED at some point in your life. Social and environmental factors do play a sometimes very large role in the development of EDs. These factors might include things such as being emotionally, physically, or sexually abused, growing up in a high-pressure home where parents placed an emphasis on physical appearance or were always dieting, lack of healthy social friendships and relationships, being bullied, participating in a high-pressure activity such as modeling, the entertainment industry, or competitive dancing, etc. Sometimes these situations can “activate” a biological predisposition.

3. Psychological Factors- these factors include things like low self esteem and suffering from another mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or OCD. There is also work being done to see what sort of temperament traits, such as perfectionism, could influence the onset of eating disorders.

I think one thing that is important to remember is that Christians have biological, social, and psychological factors that influence the onset of their eating disorders, just as non Christians do, which is why I’m a huge advocate for everyone with eating disorders to receive treatment from a psychologist who specializes in treating EDs or from a specialized treatment center. I see a troubling trend in the Church where Christians struggling with serious mental disorders receive prayer and perhaps some counseling from their pastor (who most likely doesn’t have a Masters or Ph.D in clinical psychology or mental health treatment) and then don’t get any treatment from trained professionals. Eating disorders are very real and dangerous diseases that typically require treatment.

PLEASE don’t hear me saying that prayer doesn’t really work and God doesn’t really heal because I absolutely know He does. It was God who ultimately brought me healing and recovery from my eating disorder (although the many years of therapy I had were absolutely elemental in the process), but I have also seen the Lord work to bring freedom through therapy. Healing is such a huge topic that I don’t have time to address now (and also don’t have all the answers to), but if you’re interested in some of my views about prayer and healing, read this post.

With that being said, do I believe that spiritual warfare plays a part in eating disorders in addition to the biological, social, and psychological factors? The short answer is yes, I do. Here’s a breakdown:

1. Biological factors- We live in a fallen world and as a result of that our bodies suffer in ways they were never intended to. I believe that living in a fallen world has messed with our bodies, meaning that biological predispositions to diseases, including eating disorders, are not something that God creates in people, but rather are a result of our broken world that He never wanted for us. With this perspective, you can say that Satan contributes to the onset of eating disorders because he is the one causing turmoil and brokenness in this world.

2. Social factors- I believe that the Bible teaches us that everyone has freewill to disobey the will of God. This means that people have the freewill to abuse people, bully people, pressure them, etc. The social factors that contribute to eating disorders are in no way ordained by God, but I do believe that they can be influenced by Satan. I believe that when people do evil things like abuse, assault, insult, or bully others, their actions can be influenced by the grip of Satan over their lives. Here is a post where I address the tension between good and evil in this world, including some ideas of why bad things happen.

3. Psychological factors- One psychological factor that influences the onset of eating disorders, as mentioned above, is the presence of other mental disorders. I believe that Satan can and does influence these other disorders just as he does eating disorders. Another major aspect of eating disorders is low self esteem and the unhealthy thought life that accompanies low self esteem. In my post What an Eating Disorder Sounds Like, I shared the constant mental struggle I was faced with every single day as I battled my eating disorder. This is where I most saw the demonic most manifest itself in my eating disorder struggle. I am not sure if I would say that Satan caused my eating disorder–I think my ED was the result of my mind and body doing the best they could to protect me from some pretty terrible things happening in my life by giving me a coping mechanism. But whether or not my eating disorder was directly caused by the work of the Enemy, it was absolutely maintained and worsened by the work of Satan. The terrible things I thought about myself and the hatred I had towards my very being were from the Enemy. Satan was so entrenched in my mind that he was able to make me believe in my heart that God did not love me anymore. Healing from my eating disorder consisted of replacing disordered coping mechanisms and attitudes about food with healthy ones, but the deepest work of healing happened in my soul where I had to allow the Lord to speak truth into my life. My real recovery came with the reestablishment of my relationship with God and with me holding firmly to the truth that I am loved, adored, and known by God.

What are your thoughts about the causes of eating disorders? Do you think that the spiritual realm affects things in our world like psychological disorders?

To learn more about eating disorders, read some more of my posts on the topic by clicking here. 

Top Eating Disorder Myths

eating disorder awareness- top eating disorder myths

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and am not trained in eating disorder treatment or prevention. I struggled with disordered eating/eating disorders for 12 years and I am now in recovery. My purpose behind writing these posts is to start the conversation about eating disorders, decease which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, share my experience with those who have eating disorders or know others who do, and to hopefully give some clarity and understanding about these complicated and dangerous diseases. I also want to give hope that recovery is possible!
Trigger warnings: In all of my posts about eating disorders, I try to be very sensitive and avoid triggering language. However, the reality is that I am talking about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and recognize that these posts could trigger people struggling with EDs. If you think that these posts could be the least bit triggering for you, please do not read them. The last thing I want to do is to set anyone back in their recovery process.

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Eating disorders are really misunderstood diseases and the fact that there are so many false beliefs about EDs means that many people don’t get the treatment or support that they need. Eating disorders are diseases that tell you every day you don’t have them. All the girls I was in treatment with shared the fact that they had been diagnosed with EDs by professionally trained psychologists, and yet all us of consistently doubted that we really had EDs or deserved to be in treatment. Part of the reason for that, I believe, is that our society has this picture of what eating disorders look like and that picture is wrong. This post tries to take apart some commonly held ideas about eating disorders.

So here they are, the Top Eating Disorder Myths:

  • Most people with eating disorders are underweight– This absolutely false idea is immensely detrimental to those with eating disorders for it is a belief that really hinders people from seeking treatment or accepting the fact that they have an eating disorder. There’s a belief that the majority of people with eating disorders are emaciated which makes people with eating disorders often believe that they don’t have an eating disorder because they aren’t “skinny enough.” This also makes it so that if someone who is not underweight is seeking treatment for an eating disorder, people often think that the person doesn’t have a severe problem and doesn’t actually need treatment. There are two things I learned in treatment that helped me tremendously in recovery. The first is this statistic: 80-90% of people with eating disorders are not underweight. The second is what one of our therapists shared: she used to have an eating disorder and said that when she was the sickest in her eating disorder was not when she was at her lowest weight. Weight does not accurately indicate how sick in your eating disorder you are. If we as a society could wrap our heads around that, I think people who are severely struggling with eating disorders would get a lot more support and understanding.
  • If you have an eating disorder you’re either anorexic or bulimic– This is actually not true. There are currently three named eating disorders in the DSM 5 and they are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. However, the most diagnosed eating disorder is EDNOS (now OSFED), which is Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. EDNOS means that you do not neatly fit into the criteria outlined for the other three disorders. It does NOT mean that you don’t have a real eating disorder. It does NOT mean that your struggle isn’t that bad or that it’s not real. If you or someone you love is diagnosed with EDNOS, it is just as serious as any of the other disorders. It just means that they have a mixture of behaviors and physical manifestations of the disorder that can’t be neatly categorized. Also, important note: most people with eating disorders will struggle with different behaviors and it’s not unusual for someone to transition from anorexia to bulimia to ENOS to binge-eating disorder, etc.
  • Eating disorders aren’t that serious Yes, they are. They have the highest mortality rate of all psychological disorders, with EDNOS having the highest mortality rate over both anorexia and bulimia.
  • Eating disorders are just about food– There’s this misconception that eating disorders are mainly about behaviors, the disordered ways that people eat food. Behaviors do make up a large part of eating disorders and part of treatment is absolutely addressing and stopping behaviors. However, just because behaviors have gone away does not mean that the eating disorder has. Many people will see their loved one with an eating disorder start eating well and stopping their dangerous behaviors and they will assume that they are recovered, and so it’s frustrating when they see their loved one still struggling with this supposed eating disorder and remain in treatment or go back to treatment. “But you eat now and are physically healthy, why do you need treatment?” It’s because behaviors are just a part of what it means to have an eating disorder, and as hard as the behaviors are to get rid of, the thoughts that plague and torture the mind of the person with an eating disorder stick around for a lot longer than the behaviors (I share the mental struggle of living with eating disorders in this post). If a person struggling with an ED has managed to stop all behaviors, that is huge and something to be celebrated. But we all need to recognize that getting rid of behaviors does not constitute recovery.
  • Men don’t get eating disorders- It is estimated that 1 million men in the U.S. are currently struggling with eating disorders, and I’m guessing that in reality, that number is even higher. There is a huge stigma attached to eating disorders in general, but even more so for men which means that few seek treatment.
  • The only people with eating disorders are upper class white teenage girls- Eating disorders are equal opportunity diseases. While a large number of people with eating disorders are white teenage girls, people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic statuses are affected. In fact, there are studies showing that black girls are 50% more likely to suffer from bulimia than white girls, and the girls in the lowest income bracket of those studied were 153% more likely to be bulimic than girls from the highest income bracket.
  • People with eating disorders are super vain and don’t have their lives together- Most (if not all) people with eating disorders are very high-achieving, high-functional people. In treatment with me were straight-A students, star runners, nationally recognized dancers, lawyers, college professors. Eating disorders have genetic and biological, psychological, and social roots. They are not choices and they are not vanity.
  • Binge eating is just a lack of self control– Binge-eating disorder is now an official eating disorder (which I’m so happy about!). Binge eating is not just eating too much food because you lack self control. Binging is the compulsive need to fill a void with food. The crucial thing to understand is the binging is an uncontrollable impulse, very similar to how alcoholics or drug addicts have the compulsion to use. Food becomes a drug that you cannot stop using- binge eating was, at times, a part of my eating disorder and I was never able to stop mid-binge, even when in my mind I was screaming, “I don’t want to eat this food!” Binging is typically followed by massive feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Binge eating is not a lack of self-control- it is a symptom of a very real disease.
  • Eating disorders are caused by the media and dysfunctional families– There are absolutely social and environmental factors that contribute to the onset of eating disorder. These factors include the media’s unrealistic depictions of the “perfect body,” bullying, being abused, growing up in an abusive or unhealthy family, etc. However, more and more studies are showing that there is a massive genetic component to eating disorders, with some studies finding that genetics account for 50-80% of the risk of getting an eating disorder. And while families are getting less of the blame for the onset of eating disorders, psychologists continue to recognize the need for family involvement in treatment and recovery.
  • People with eating disorders only eat _______ – It doesn’t matter what food item you put in that blank, your statement is false. Why? Because all eating disorders are unique. One specific food or category of food might be a fear food for one person and a safe food for another. Also, it is not unusual for people with eating disorders to do a lot of cooking and baking.
  • Eating disorders are glamorous- I had this idea in my mind that anorexia was a “desirable” eating disorder because you lose weight and also because that’s how it’s often portrayed in the media. My picture of anorexia was quickly dashed to reality once my eating disorder transitioned to anorexia. No eating disorder is desirable because all of them transform your mind into a hostile place and when your mind is hostile, you become a hostile person towards others. Additionally, all eating disorder start breaking down and destroying your body. If you need to hear some of the really gross and terrible things that start happening to your body when you struggle with an eating disorder, get in touch with me and I’ll fill you in on some of the details that our society seems to conveniently overlook.
  • Eating disorders are a lifestyle choice- I despise pro-ana and pro-mia communities (communities that promote anorexia and bulimia as valid lifestyles). Eating disorders are serious psychological diseases, NOT lifestyle choices. When you have an eating disorder, you are not in control. Your eating disorder tells you that you’re the one in control and that the behaviors you’re doing and the thoughts you’re thinking are your choice, but they’re not. Your eating disorder is the one running the show. And let’s be clear- any “way of life” with an alarmingly high death rate is anything but a “life” style.

So do any of these surprise you? Feel free to ask questions or comment on this post!

Want to learn more about eating disorders? Click here to read more posts I’ve written on the topic.

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