The Trap of Eating Disorders
Understanding the core problem of bulimia and anorexia, hope can be found.
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16- 17).
I wish I had thought of this passage as I lay gasping in the dark stairwell, the cold, gray cement wracking my frame with continued shivers. I didn’t, of course. I was much too busy destroying myself to think of Christ’s love letter to me. A moment later I heaved again, throwing up for the 11th time that hour, then sank back against the windowsill, cradling my aching head in my quivering arms.
I’d done it again: My last meal had been exactly 92 hours ago, and I could no longer handle the gnawing hunger. I indulged in a bowl of rice and corn, eating ravenously and jealously, all the while focusing on the half-empty bottle of ipecac tucked safely between two pairs of socks in my top drawer. The moment I finished the bowl, I found the bottle and guzzled the brown syrup. Immediately a fit of goose bumps shivered down my body as I struggled to get down the taste of the liquid and the uneasy fear of what followed.
It never took more than 10 minutes, so after 8 p.m., I headed to the bathroom at the end of the hall, stopping to chat casually for a moment with a friend about our test the next day. By the time I reached the water fountain, I was sick. A moment later I couldn’t stand.
By forcing vomiting, ipecac, meant to remove accidentally swallowed poison, rids the body of everything it touches until it’s neutralized. After an hour in the bathroom, I stumbled back to my dorm room, keeping my hand on the wall for support. I felt terrible and relieved at the same time. I had fixed the problem of my eating. A moment later I knew the ipecac was still working, and I spent the next two hours in the stairwell, throwing up continuously, first all traces of rice and corn, then water, juices and blood.
A True Picture
I was so sick and weak that I seemed almost to see myself from a distance.
For the first time, I saw how truly revolting I was. With hopeless disgust, my mind slipped back into my convulsing body, but was stopped by a deep sense of presence. In fear of being discovered, I grabbed the sides of the trash can and fell back, wasted and wary, suddenly aware that Christ was near me. Then I knew: I was breaking His heart.
Sitting on the steps by the gray trash cans, ashen and lost, I realized how He wept in His amazing love for me.
None of us deserve God’s grace and redemption. I’ll never cease to be amazed at how He has redeemed me! I’m redeemed today, because the only pain I couldn’t bear was the pain I knew stabbed His heart as He watched me hurt my body. I was hurting myself and didn’t care as long as I could be thin. I was revolting because of what I was putting my body through. But God saw past all that, and He has redeemed me!
“Eating disorders.” I hate the phrase. It’s scientific and functional and broad. The struggle of mind, soul and body that the phrase refers to is none of these things. I think of eating disorders as image disorders, or as heart disorders, because eating disorders are a misorder of values, visions and sufficiency.
As Christians, we can do more than hold each other’s hair back when it comes to anorexia and bulimia. By understanding where the core of the problem lies and checking what the Bible has to say about our bodies, we can grasp a hope and a faith that’s out of this world. When we fall back on these, we can find complete release from the self-esteem trappings of this world.
For the past few months, I have sought to open the box on the many mysteries involved in my food disorders and discovered a multitude of questions. The more I make myself look at my own struggle and its roots, the more I realize how many things have caused my problem: society, friends, peers, family. I note these to be the causes of many eating issues, all the while fully aware that we are society, friends, peers, family. Something’s wrong.
One college male says, “Overweight girls? Naw. I won’t date them. I like them skinny and small. There are guys out there for those girls, but I’m not one of them.”
Another says, “I want a skinny wife, so why would I date a heavy girl?” Several others claim weight doesn’t matter at all, but asked when the last time was they were interested in a girl who was 15 or more pounds overweight, eye contact was averted and silence ended the conversation.
Another said that while he wouldn’t care for his girlfriend any differently if she were to gain 20 pounds in the next month, he’s not sure he would have started dating her if she had gained 20 pounds before they went out. These comments are all from Christian males in their teens and early 20s. Why do they sound so much like the world? Is there something wrong with this?
One friend claimed that we should blame the media instead of the guys. “They show us all these skinny girls,” he says, “and that makes us think, Yeah, I could have that, and so that’s just what we look for.”
Jenny agrees with him. “Everywhere I look, something in the media is telling me what to look like. I don’t look like what magazines and movies tell me I’m supposed to, so I’ll do what it takes to get there.”
God didn’t need to create you, but He chose to create you for His own enjoyment. When you fully understand how much God loves you and how much He wants to have a relationship with you — His special, unique creation — you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant.
You can do everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by carrying on a continual conversation with Him while you do. If this happens, disorders of the image, of the mind and of the heart will eventually fade as our focus is taken off ourselves and placed on His face. Not only will this eliminate our poor self-esteem, but it will also help us remember the Bible’s command to supply a holy place of worship for the Spirit. So let’s peek at the facts.
Fact #1: Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
“If I treated my body the way God wanted me to treat my body, I know I would feel better about it,” admits Natalie. “God doesn’t care how thin I am. He cares what I idolize and what I put my dependence on.”
“You have to know that you’re royalty, and that royalty deserves to be treated with honor,” recommends Julie, a former model and nutrition expert, in reference to 1 Peter 2:9. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”
When we surrender our bodies to Christ, knowing that they are not our own, we can enter into a light of truth in which He has called us and leave the dark and desperate fights for control. In the life of a Christian, control is not even ours to fight for, because we are not our own but belong to our Creator.
Fact #2: He asks that we remember to whom we belong.
All I wanted was to be skinny. I wanted to lose. I had to lose, seemingly for my sanity, my strength, my smile. If we seek sufficiency in anyone but Him, we’ll never be content. The comparison game is one we can’t win. Those who are in Christ have no condemnation or comparison, so to measure our sufficiency in others is to measure in a way He doesn’t. Ladies, let’s seek our beauty, our belonging and our futures in the arms of Christ. He hurts deeply when we settle for less, thinking we’ll find more. He’s more than enough for all of us.
“No man can serve two masters” has a new meaning for those of us who have made control of our bodies a master force in our lives. If your weight controls your thoughts, dictates your habits and consumes your time, then it’s a master. And if food is one’s master, then God is no master at all.
Is your desire or need to lose weight an expression of your living for Him or of your living for yourself? Jeremiah 31:3 reminds us that God has loved us with an everlasting love. That enables us to trust that neither the weight of our bodies nor the weight of our sins is able to keep us from His precious love and acceptance.
We have to know what we’re hungry for before we can “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” We always have the drive and the time for the things in life that are truly important to us. If righteousness is a high priority, then we need to evaluate what must happen in order to seek this. I’d dare to venture that little righteousness or Christseeking can be found in many of our diets.
I was sure that nothing could control my eating and my body, yet Scripture tells us that this is not so. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food,” 1 Corinthians 6:13 says, “but God will destroy them both.”
Wake up! You are not your own! You’ve been bought with a great price; therefore, glorify God with your body. He’s promised that once we let Him lead our hearts in our search for skinniness, we’ll find that He fulfills His promise to always lead us in His triumph.
You may need professional Christian counseling or Christian medical expertise to help you come to terms with seeing yourself through God’s eyes. And don’t expect this to happen overnight. Healing is often a process. And process indicates time.
Fact #3: He seeks that we fight to love what He has loved.
He loves you exactly as you are! And He loves you as though you were the only person on earth. He died with you on His heart. May we live with only Him on ours.
Jenn has come out of a fiveyear battle with bulimia through changes of perspective, “I’ve stopped looking at myself; stopped trying to control everything. I realized that I was hurting every aspect of my life. When I was making myself throw up, I realized that I was saying to God, ‘I know better than You how I should look.’ I can’t say that to Him any more. He’s made me perfect for His call on my life and my ministry. This includes what I look like.”
Write on your mirror “Be thou my vision,” or “Let Christ shine through.” Commit yourself to seeing Christ and His love. Loving ourselves or hating ourselves touches every part of our lives.
Felicity comments: “Sure, my goal is to be healthy. And I’m still about 20 pounds heavier than I should be (according to my doctor) for my height and body structure. But my first goal isn’t to lose those 20 pounds. My first priority is to get right with God. Part of the healing from my eating disorder comes with maintaining weight in a healthy way, but most of it comes from my choice to allow Him to heal my heart.”
My journey of pushing aside lies from Satan and holding on to truths from God will be a lifelong task. Most days I think that eating will always be something I struggle with. I haven’t had meat for years and can’t eat cheese or other greasy foods without being sick. But my heart’s desire is a vibrant and growing walk with the Lord, not a smaller size. My goal is to please Him, not the world. I know that what the world has despised, including my weight and struggles, are the same things He has chosen to use in my life. I choose to take hold of the healthy life He has given me.
Originally appeared on Briomag.com. Copyright © 2004 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.