“28.8 million Americans experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives.”
“Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid use disorder.”
Regardless of age, gender, body type, status, or race, struggles with the mirror and body image seem to play no favorites. As fashion, social media streaks, and diet trends climb, so do the multitudes of people coming forward with unhealthy food and body relationships.
Deep-rooted secrets of anorexia, bulimia, and excessive exercise become so engulfing it seems like there is no way out. Can you relate, or do you know someone currently in such a place?
I have personally been there. And it wasn’t until I was twenty-two that finally faced my reality and sought help for the battle I had been warring nearly ten years, unknown to most.
The causes of eating disorders vary. Although, I believe the roots of my eating disorder started very young. High school, in particular, was brutal for me. We all long to be accepted, to be loved, to be heard, to be enough. So, the isolation and rejection on many fronts only magnified my emptiness and my intense longing for control. Nevertheless, the initial thought of watching what I ate spiraled into a terrifying game I could not escape.
When people noticed my thinning figure, it was fuel to my fire. So, I started running mile after mile and cutting my food intake to basically nothing. Yet the five, then ten, then twenty, and then thirty pounds falling just did not seem enough. My clothes were literally falling off of me. But when I looked in the mirror I still hated what I saw. I believed I was fat and ugly.
Eventually, a few got wind of my schemes. So, I gained a few pounds just to get them off my back. Still, the habits and thoughts about myself remained.
In time, my restriction habits switched, and I began the cycle of binging and purging. I remember stuffing my face with anything I could get my hands on, especially sweets and ice cream. Although it did not take long before I’d be hanging over the bathroom toilet or taking excessive amounts of laxatives just to find relief.
Each time the process became more miserable and was wrecking havoc with my thoughts and emotions, yet I could not stop. Time was sure to tell that it was also destroying my organ systems and body.
This vicious cycle continued for ten years and nearly took my life multiple times between the malnutrition, severe stress in my body, and the desperation causing me to contemplate suicide.
Although, I write to you today, 6+ years later, from a place of victory and freedom. And I believe if you are willing to acknowledge your need for healing, you, too, can join me.
Fear, guilt, and shame will try to keep your secret hidden. Your eyes will wander to the media and even those around you to play the comparison game and keep you stuck. But I promise that starting the process of recovering from an eating disorder is more than worth it… It’s life changing. Lifesaving truly. Not only for yourself but for future generations.
As a young woman wanting to get married and have children someday, I remember my nutritionist sharing this reality that shook me. If I didn’t surrender my cycle, there would be no me. Let alone a baby or the family I had always dreamed.
Things didn’t necessarily change immediately nor did I completely believe that my world could be different because my patterns had become so normal, but I decided I’d at least take a step.
At first, all the changes needing to be made seemed so overwhelming. I had to learn to take it moment by moment. Then day by day. There were some times I failed, and there were others I celebrated. Still, the choice to say yes to help and Jesus’ healing was one I will never regret. Although, I know now that I had to come to that realization for myself, not because anyone else wanted or forced me to. It had to be for me.
So, if you or your loved one find yourself in battling an eating disorder, please know you are not alone! I would encourage you first to REACH OUT! Telling the first person is often the hardest. However, there can be such a weight lifted from you when you are not the only one trying to bear it and figure out everything.
Once you have told one person or even a few, I would encourage you to reach out to your pastor and the local church to see if they have any resources available. Getting a medical team onboard is often necessary as well. They can start checking the stability of your physical health and make recommendations. Nutritionists can also help teach practical skills and work with your individual needs. Digging into the root issues is often necessary as well. So, getting a counselor is another potential step.
These are just ideas, but please know every person and their journey to freedom is unique. So please don’t put yourself (or allow someone else) to put you into a “formula”. You must listen to your body and those that love you.
In that light, here is a list of few other resources that may be helpful.
Scripture to Fight the Lies of the Enemy
- 1st Samuel 16:7- “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
- Song of Solomon 4:7- “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”
- Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
- You Are Not What You Weigh by Lisa Bevere
- I’ll Start Again Monday: Break the Cycle of Unhealthy Eating Habits with Lasting Spiritual Satisfaction Hardcover by Lysa TerKeurst
- 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder: Effective Strategies from Therapeutic Practice and Personal Experience (8 Keys to Mental Health) by Carolyn Costin
- Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too by Jenni Schaefer
- Whoa That’s Good- Sadie Robertson Interviewing Alexa Penavega: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk8Gzfqk5Ak
- Dove Real Beauty Sketches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXy
- Finding Your Freedom With Food: The Eating Disorder Therapist Podcast with Harriet Frew- https://harrietfrew.podbean.com
- “Scars to Your Beautiful”-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk8Gzfqk5Ak
- “The Real Me”- https://youtu.be/i6RezoHKni0
- “You Say”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIaT8Jl2zpI
- “Enough”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqavwKIvtk4
Residential & Outpatient Program
- National Eating Disorder Association- https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders: https://anad.org/
I hope this list was helpful! If you have any questions, would like to talk with me personally, or need help connecting to resources in your area, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Much love always, Alisha
*Note: None of the resources are endorsed. They are simply recommendations from my personal experience as well as others in eating disorder recovery. Statistics also found on NEDA website.