Archive of ‘National Eating Disorder Awareness Week’ category

Recovery

Eating Disorder Awareness- Recovery

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, cialis which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, treat  share my experience with those who have eating disorders or know others who do, treat 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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Who you are and what you struggle with are not the same thing.

This statement it true, but when you are struggling with an eating disorder, it doesn’t feel true.

When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I lost who I was. I couldn’t separate myself from it—we were the same.

The scariest part of recovery for me was not the idea of gaining weight or losing my long-time coping mechanisms…don’t get me wrong, those things were absolutely terrifying. But there was something that was even harder for me to face and that was the reality that I didn’t know who I was without my eating disorder. I was scared of losing my identity.

And the idea that your eating disorder gives you your identity is such a lie from the Enemy—no one but the Lord gives you your identity. And while I knew that with my mind, I didn’t feel it in my heart. Twelve years of hearing the lies of the Enemy had given them such a hold over me.

As I entered into recovery, the eating disorder and I started to separate. Instead of it being a part of me, it stood right behind me, breathing down my neck. But it was a start. As I walked further into recovery the eating disorder was pushed further back behind me. It could still talk to me, but the voice grew quieter as it was pushed further away. Sometimes it was so far behind me that I couldn’t hear its shouts anymore. And sometimes something would happen that pushed it right behind me again.

There’s an argument between psychologists whether or not people can ever be recovered from their eating disorder, or if they will always be “in recovery.” I absolutely one hundred percent believe that full and final recovery is possible not only because I have met people who consider themselves recovered, but most of all because I love a God with whom all impossible things become possible.

In this post I talked about how God promised me that the year 2013 would be the year of my recovery and praise God it was! I saw such amazing freedom in the year 2013 and as it got closer to the New Year, I got more and more excited about full freedom. But the Lord also warned me—He warned me that just because I knew recovery was coming didn’t mean that the Enemy would respect it one bit. And let me tell you, Satan has not respected my recovery.

On the morning of January 1st, 2014, I got up and was so excited! Yeah freedom! I went downstairs, made breakfast, and when I put the first bit of food in my mouth I had the strongest urge to use an old ED behavior. And you know what I did? I said, “Well, that’s not who I am anymore!” finished that bite of food and the rest of my breakfast, and then I praised God for His faithfulness!

I currently consider myself in recovery, not quite to the point of recovered, only because I have to continue to be on high alert for any ED thoughts or behaviors that enter my life. But I know that the status of recovered is in my future. I am confident of it because in the past year God has taught me who I am in Him. Any anytime Satan tries to tell me otherwise, I can look him in the face and say I am a new creation in Christ! He has made me new and I will never forget my identity in Him. The parts of me that fell away along with my eating disorder were not core parts of my identity. I did lose things with the loss of my eating disorder–I lost depression, anxiety, and bitterness. And it turns out, I was just fine letting go of those things.

Eating disorder recovery statistics are discouraging. But Praise the Lord that He is not a respecter of statistics. After 12 years of battling an eating disorder I didn’t think that I would ever recover. And yet I have :) If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, don’t give up on recovery! No matter how long you’ve been battling this disease, you can win.

If you want to learn more about eating disorders, click here to read more posts I’ve written about the issue :)

How to Love Your Body–Some Practicals

Eating Disorder Awareness- How to love your body- Some Practicals

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, advice which continue to be misunderstood and stigmatized, buy  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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This blog post is continuing along the theme of the post I wrote several weeks ago–A Resolution that Could Actually Change Your Life, which was a post encouraging people to not weight themselves. This blog post will offer some concrete, practical changes you can make in your life. Who do I think may benefit from making these life changes?

  • People in recovery from eating disorders
  • People who want to be in recovery from eating disorders
  • People who struggle with disordered behaviors and thoughts
  • People who have low self esteem and want to learn to love themselves more
  • People who want to support those in their lives who have eating disorders
  • People who want to support those in their lives who are in recovery
  • People who want to fight eating disorder culture

Ok! So what are these practicals?

  • Write a Thank You note to your body--Writing a thank you note to your body, thanking it for all that it does for you, is one great way to start loving and appreciating your body. You can also write an apology note for all the ways you have mistreated or failed to appreciate your body. Another thing you can do is keep a list of everything you like about your body, adding one thing to the list every day. You can also take 10 minutes every morning to thank God for each of your body parts–no skipping parts allowed :)
How to Love Your Body--Some Practicals From http://eatingdisorderrecovery.tumblr.com/%5B/caption%5D
  • Stop Weighing Yourself–If you haven’t read A Resolution that Could Actually Change Your Life, I recommend it! I think we would all be much healthier and start on the journey of loving our bodies more if we all stopped weighing ourselves. I explain more why in that post.
  • Stop Counting Calories–Americans seem to have an obsession with counting calories. I personally don’t think anything good comes out of it. It gets all of us obsessed and focused on a number, which really doesn’t tell us much about how healthy we are. For people with eating disorders, they generally have a number of calories in their mind that feels acceptable to eat, and it’s generally a number that is way to low for their bodies to actually function at any sort of baseline level. Our society tells us that the fewer calories we eat, the better. But any good nutritionist would tell you that that’s just not true. Instead of focusing on the calorie content (or fat content, or whatever else) in food, focus on eating a wide variety of foods from all categories (starches, meat proteins, dairy proteins, fruits, veggies, and fats) plus some treats now and then (or everyday if you have a sweet tooth like mine). :) If you are in recovery or supporting someone in recovery, I would recommend blocking out all the nutrition facts on the food labels on the food you buy. I am very frustrated by the new proposed Nutrition Label design (click here to see it). I have no issue with the changes they’re proposing as to what is shown, but the MASSIVE calorie number at the top makes it seem as though the most important thing on the label is the calorie content and it also makes it incredibly difficult for people, like me, who try not to look at the label, to avoid the huge bold number at the top.
  • Evaluate Your Workout Habits–Society tells us that you can never work out too much. This is absolutely not true. Working out excessively can actually work to break down your body, especially if you aren’t eating enough food to balance your workout, and excessively working out can harm you psychologically. If the thought of missing a workout gives you anxiety, your workout habit is probably not healthy. If you associate working out with being a “good” person and not working out with being a “bad” person, your workout habit is most likely not healthy. If your eating habits are such that you are not be able to eat enough to support the amount of exercise you are getting, your workout habits are probably not healthy. My suggestion for healthy workout habits is to not focus on calories burned while working out (I have a rule that I don’t workout on a machine that shows me calories burned because I know it would be unhealthy for me). Also, don’t do workouts that aren’t fun for you. Find a way of staying active that gives you joy–that might be hiking, going on walks around the neighborhood, yoga, zumba, dancing around your room, roller blading, biking, soccer, softball, ice skating, swimming, running, etc. I would say that being honest with your workout habits and how it may be negatively affecting your mind and body is probably one of the hardest things to do, but I really recommend taking the time to really think about it and consider some of the things I talked about here.
  • Don’t Look at Clothing Size Tags– I realize that this is a hard one to do because you choose the clothing you’re going to try on by the marked size. Here are some ideas of things you can do to help avoid clothing size: Shop with a friend or family member and have them bring you a wide variety of clothing sizes and don’t look at the tags when you try them on. A healthy thing for everyone to do is cut the tags out of your clothing once you buy them–eventually you’ll forget what exact size you’re wearing, or at least won’t be reminded every time you put them on. Another thing you could do is choose clothing that is stretchy and so it will fit you at a range of weights. This helps you take your mind off of any changes happening in your body–this is one of the reasons I wear leggings pretty much 24/7. It helped me take my mind off of my body as I was trying to recover and it still makes me feel more comfortable now.
  • Do Things that Make You Happy–I cannot stress enough how important it is to take time for yourself. I don’t have class until 3pm on Tuesdays so I get up early, go to yoga, and then go to a cafe and get something yummy for breakfast, have time with Jesus, and then do homework. Tuesdays are so fun because I get some time to myself and treat myself :)
  • Avoid mirrors–I would suggest not having a mirror in your room. I live in a dorm so I can’t remove the mirror that is in there, but last year as I was trying to recover, I was able to strategically move one of our dressers in front of the mirror. The less time you spend in front of the mirror, the less self-conscious you’ll feel about yourself. Also writing encouraging notes to yourself or whoever else shares your mirror is always nice :)
  • Surround yourself with healthy people–If you mostly hang out with a group of people who constantly talk about their eating and workout habits, discussing their bodies, dieting, etc., it’s going to be very difficult for you to keep healthy and positive thoughts going in your mind. Really think about who you spend your time with and what effect they’re having on you and your self esteem. Also, don’t be afraid to tell the people you’re hanging out with that you would prefer for them to change the subject if they’re talking about something that is triggering or just unhealthy. I have to do this sometimes with my friends and they’re always super respectful and move on to a new topic.
  • Mediate on Psalm 139–Psalm 139 is quoted so much to the point where it seems kind of trite and cheesy. I went for a long time without reading Psalm 139 because of this reason, but lately I’ve been reading it a lot and have been struck by how powerful it is. It’s quoted all the time because it’s amazing. I’ve been so moved by the idea of God being with me even before I was born–that He saw my unformed body and that His presence kept me company even in the womb. God is so awesome!
From http://hellobrielle.wordpress.com[/caption%5D
  • Be careful of the language you use with yourself–This is a really hard one–it is really challenging to change your thought processes. One thing I would have you think about is this: Would you ever speak to someone the way you speak to yourself? Would you ever critique someone’s body and actions the way you do yours? I would guess that for most of you, the answer is no. When you catch yourself saying something really mean to yourself, make the effort to stop that thought and speak a truth against it. Just try your best to remember that there is so much grace, always.
  • Keep a list of how you want to impact your world and the people around you–I’m guessing when you think about how you want to be remembered in this world, how you want to better the lives of your friends, family members, and strangers, the number one thing that comes to mind is not that you want to be remembered for the shape of your body. You have the ability to change lives, to bring hope, to give love to those who do not feel loved, to be the hands and feet of Christ. What is your life’s work? What is the call of your soul?

Be gentle with yourself. Learning to love yourself is a long process, but it’s so worth it <3

Interested in learning more about eating disorders? Click here to read more posts I’ve written on the topic.

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

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