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The Truth About Eating Disorders

Learn what causes eating disorders, what the root of the problem is, factors that could lead to the development of an eating disorder, what the Bible says about beauty and how to avoid the trap of eating disorders.

The truth about having an eating disorder is it feels lonely. Eating disorders bring about feelings of shame, leaving the sufferer to feel disconnected from others. By raising awareness and diving into the truth of how eating disorders arise, parents can begin to create an environment where their children feel safe to share their struggles.

Eating Disorder Article Disclaimer

Content Caution: This article offers a candid look at eating disorders. Some aspects of the discussion may prove difficult for sensitive readers.

The Honest Truth About Eating Disorders

Sometimes the demands of a sport or pressure from peers and family feed the disorder. Often times family systems issues can play a role in a teen developing an eating disorder. Other times, teens don’t know how to react to the physical changes that come with adolescence and they panic, desperately trying to stop this natural, healthy weight gain. Still other teens use food and weight-control to get attention or bring stability to a world that seems to be in chaos. No matter their roots, eating disorders are dangerous and hurtful to bodies, emotions and relationships. If you or your child is struggling with an eating disorder, keep reading. You will find help and hope in solid information and in the stories of those who have fought this battle and won.

Eating Disorders: What Are the Facts?

According to studies by the EDC (Eating Disorders Coalition), here are some general facts about eating disorders.

Defining Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is an unhealthy way of using food to cope with psychological stress. As defined by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), an eating disorder is “characterized by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behavior that results in the altered consumption or absorption of food that significantly impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning.”

If you or your child is fighting this battle, it may present in one of the following eating disorders as defined by Eating Disorder Hope:

The following eating disorders are some of many ways an eating disorder may present itself. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. For an extensive list and information on treatment, visit Timberline Knolls.

Common Presentations of Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa: “Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements, leading to significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health. There is an intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain, even though at a significantly low weight. Creates a disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight.”

Bulimia nervosa: Recurrent episodes of binge eating, which are characterized by BOTH of the following:

  • “Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g. within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

Recurrent, inappropriate compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for 3 months. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.”

Binge Eating Disorder: “Recurrent episodes of binge eating, which are characterized by BOTH of the following

  • “Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g. within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

The binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal.
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
  • Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward.

Marked distress regarding binge eating is present. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months. The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior as in bulimia nervosa. Binge eating usually does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.”

Orthorexia: “An obsessive focus on “healthy” eating and avoidance of “unhealthy” foods, mental preoccupation regarding dietary practices, and very rigid dietary rules with violations causing exaggerated emotional distress (fear of disease, anxiety, shame, and negative physical sensations).”

It’s easy to see that these disorders are disastrous for your health. In addition to destroying your body, eating disorders often cause depression and confusion, harm relationships with family and friends, and produce a sense of separation from God. Why? While anorexia and bulimia may have distinct physical symptoms, they’re really a matter of emotional and psychological wounds that show up in physical ways.

Factors That May Lead to an Eating Disorder

Factors leading to an eating disorder are often a mix of both internal and external issues. Listed below are some potential factors as stated by Eating Disorder Hope.

Internal Factors

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Anxiety
  • Defining yourself in terms of appearance
  • Helplessness and a need for control
  • Difficulty in managing emotions
  • A tendency toward perfectionism

External Factors

  • Changing external circumstances
  • Over-controlling family culture
  • Parental tendency toward perfection
  • Negative societal influences
  • Family systems issues

Although the presence of these issues in your life doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop an eating disorder, it does place you at a higher risk. There is no foolproof way to guess who will struggle with an eating disorder. People who develop eating disorders come from every race, religion, and economic background. However, there are some common warning signs. If you’re concerned about yourself or your teen, ask the following questions:

  • Are you or your teen frightened of situations where you will have to eat a normal meal?
  • Do you or your teen feel good or bad according to how much you eat, how much you weigh, or how much you exercise?
  • What is your perception of your body image? (A question for either you or your child.)
  • Do you or your child worry about deviating from your routine?
  • Do you use laxatives, vomiting, diet pills, excessive exercise or water pills to help you lose weight or feel in control of your weight?
  • How often do you or your child feel out of control?
  • Do you or your child sometimes feel out of control when eating?
  • Do you or your teen often feel depressed or anxious?
  • Do you or your child feel that if everything were perfect, you could achieve all other goals?
  • Do you or your teen feel a sense of helplessness?

The Root of the Problem

Discovering these signs in your own life or in the life of your child can be overwhelming. You may have a sense of sliding down a dangerous slope and not being able to stop. On the other hand, seeing these symptoms in the life of someone close to you may be confusing. What makes your child or teen act the way he or she does?

Sometimes understanding the source of emotional stress is the best way to begin dealing with an eating disorder. If you’re the one struggling, this knowledge can help you look at your pain more objectively and fight it in a way that’s healthier than disordered eating. If you’re watching a child battle anorexia or bulimia, understanding where he or she is coming from can help you to respond in a caring, constructive way.

Where Eating Disorders Can Take Root

Parents, this is where you need to take a moment and look at your life. Do you as the parent resonate with any of the descriptions or questions above? Self-awareness is the best way to help understand the root of the problem in your life and in the life of your teen if they are struggling with an eating disorder. Becoming aware of your thought patterns, whether they be negative or controlling can show potential areas where your teen is feeling overwhelmed with pressure.

Some places eating disorders can take root include:

  • High performance family culture (professionally, athletically, or spiritually)
  • Family loss/trauma
  • Big family changes (i.e. moving or divorce)
  • Need for perfection
  • Desiring control in all areas

If you or your teen is struggling with an eating disorder, the biggest thing to remember is the battle is not with food, it is an emotional struggle with something else. The eating disorder is a product of a deeper struggle.

Ages & Stages

Noticing the presence of these roots can help you and your family pivot in order to prevent you or your child from developing an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are beginning to appear in children earlier and earlier. Creating an emotionally healthy family environment is your best weapon against the development of an eating disorder. Be aware of how your family discusses weight, exercise, and diet culture.

You may begin to notice signs of an eating disorder as early as eight years old. Though this seems young, your kids can desire having a sense of control at a young age. It is not as common to see 4-8 year olds struggle with an eating disorder, but it is possible.

As your child gets older, take note of what they are feeling. 9-12 year olds are starting to see the social pressures of having certain types of bodies. Pressures from peers, school, and home may begin to build up and your child may turn to an unhealthy path in order to gain a sense of order in their life.

Once your child gets to their teenage years, 13-18, more of these emotional stresses can take place. Your teen is more aware of their environment. They will notice struggles at home and school more acutely, which can in turn make them feel as though they need to aim for perfection in an imperfect world.

From rapid physical development to the need for love and attention, emotional trauma can come from lots of sources. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the primary stresses that contribute to eating disorders.

What’s Happening to My Body?

As parents, it is important to be aware of the physical changes that happen during adolescence. It may seem like a no-brainer, but along with all this growth and change comes a natural increase in weight. Be open to discussing these changes with your children.

Between ages 11 and 16, most girls grow 7 to 9 inches and gain 35 to 50 pounds. Most boys grow 10 to 12 inches and gain 40 to 80 pounds. Even though this is perfectly normal, the sudden increase in weight scares some teens into thinking they’re “getting fat.”

To complicate things even more, weight gain and height growth are not perfectly synchronized, so almost everyone will go through phases of being chubby or awkwardly skinny at some point during adolescence. Help your teen to relax. Encourage them to take good care of their body, not because they need to look a certain way, but because the Lord cares for them and doesn’t want them to hurt themselves. Remind them that soon the ups and downs will level off into a more stable adult size and shape.

If your family has a history of being overweight, it is important to maintain a balance of healthy eating and exercise. The key word here is balance! If your teen has worries, remind them of the truth of their worth. Exercising compulsively can be just as unhealthy as anorexia or bulimia. Anytime one area of your life causes you to obsess, it’s an indication that something is wrong.

Creating a Safe Environment

Normalize the changes your children are going through, remember you are setting the tone within your household. As your teens go through these adolescent changes, turn the focus away from diet, weight, and exercise.

Instead, help your child build healthy habits. Encourage them to create good relationships and community. Remind your teens where their worth comes from and tell them truth when their minds wander to negative body talk. Be intentional about having a healthy environment where your children can feel safe to discuss topics such as body image and bodily changes.

Competing for Thinness

Athletes are usually among the most disciplined and fit of all people. Unfortunately, the rigid standards of some sports and the unrealistic expectations of some coaches and parents can drive young athletes to practice unhealthy dieting habits.

According to Eating Disorder Hope, “While about 1%-5% of the general population is at risk for developing an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, that number can be as high as 30% for competitive athletes.” This is especially true in sports where being small or thin is a competitive advantage.

High Risk Sports for Developing Eating Disorders

These sports are deemed high risk because of the “lean” and “aesthetic” aspect of each of these sports.

  • gymnastics
  • distance running
  • figure skating
  • ballet
  • wrestling
  • rowing
  • diving
  • swimming
  • body building

If your child or teen is in one of these sports, don’t panic. Be aware of the possibilities and maintain an open and authentic home environment so your child can share how they are feeling.

Male athletes may not go through the same emotional distress that many females with eating disorders experience. A girl’s identity and self-worth often becomes closely tied to her success at shedding pounds, especially as it relates to her sport. However, for guys, a certain weight may be a required goal to meet in order to do well athletically. Even if guys don’t get psychologically addicted to losing weight the way girls do, they may create permanent harm to their bodies through unhealthy dieting to get to a desired goal weight. Your son may struggle with body image, so be aware that it will look different than the “classic” eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

Whether your teen is a girl or a guy, being an athlete won’t automatically cause them to have an eating disorder. In fact, some team sports actually protect against them. But you will need to be extra cautious so your child won’t fall into that trap. If your child chooses to participate in the “high risk sports” (gymnastics, figure skating, dancing, synchronized swimming, wrestling), help keep your child accountable and continue to open the door for difficult conversations should they need to discuss potential pressures they may be facing. Encourage them to be open about what they are feeling as they participate in their sport.

Looking for Love

Some teens who fall into an eating disorder have the desperate feeling that no one loves or even notices them. They may feel neglected and abused, and food becomes a way to bring control back to their lives. Sometimes a traumatic experience or loss is at the root of their struggle. Others start losing weight to look good and then discover that the rapid weight loss gets them lots of attention.

So the cycle continues, they keep losing weight. Even when they know it’s unhealthy, they want to elicit more attention from you as their parents, doctors, or counselors. Most commonly, teens feel that if they can just reach a certain size and weight, they’ll be accepted by those around them.

Ultimately, your teen, like most of us, is hungry for deep, meaningful relationships. As humans, we are created for relationships, specifically a relationship with our Creator. Help your child express how they are feeling by asking them questions. Your teen cannot control a lot of things, so in the midst of searching for meaningful relationships, food is where they may land to gain a sense of control.

Help Children Understand How They Feel

If your child or teen is having a hard time discussing their thoughts and feelings, use a feelings chart to help identify how they are feeling. When you help identify thoughts and feelings, you can help locate the lies they are believing about themselves. When you shine a light on lies they believe, the darkness of the lie has to flee. Giving a space to understand and discuss feelings is one of the best things you can do for your child who is potentially struggling.

A High-Pressure Society

Why do so many teens turn to food-control as a source of stability, attention, and acceptance? Why does body image have so much to do with our self-worth? While there’s no simple explanation, part of the answer is that we live in a world that places excessive value on looking good, being thin, and staying in style.

But wait! Who decides how thin is thin enough? And who sets the standards for what “beautiful” means?

The people who determine society’s standards of beauty haven’t had some magical revelation of what perfection is. They just happen to control the diet, fitness, fashion and cosmetic industries. The message they’re sending is “perfection is possible, if you use our products.” Sex appeal sells, so TV and movies also profit from promoting the lies that beauty equals success, perfection is attainable, and that thinness leads to happiness.

Debunking the Lies

Sadly, many people are buying into these lies. What happens when the diet doesn’t work, or worse, when it does work, but the results still aren’t satisfying? Girls and boys are setting themselves up for an eating disorder. They’ve been given an unrealistic idea of what is beautiful or even normal. They’ve tried to reach that ideal and failed. They’re willing to do destructive things to their bodies in order to achieve that image at all costs.

No matter how much your teen is being bombarded by the lies, don’t let them buy into the lies. Help your children learn to pick apart the messages they’re receiving from society. As parents, listen to the phrases your teen says. Listen for details of lies they are believing, lies are in the details. Help by telling them truth found in scripture.

Having healthy discussions about body image within your household can give your children a more realistic view of what is normal and beautiful. Challenge the things society says about body image, remain authentic with your kids. Discuss your children’s worth through a biblical lens, rather than letting the world’s broken standards tell them who they are.

What Is Beauty?

Since standards of beauty change so rapidly, is it really worth our time, effort and tears to conform to them? No! It’s not worth doing permanent damage to your body to live up to a standard that will probably change within a decade. As parents, the thoughts above can be easy for us to listen to. In the mind of your child however, the standards of today feel present and the feelings attached to those standards feel massive.

Acknowledge how your teen feels in this present moment. Don’t dismiss them just because you know this beauty trend they care about will fade. Create and environment where you can acknowledge the short term desires of beauty, but remind them lovingly the balance of the long game. Life is the long game, so developing an addictive thinking pattern toward achieving a certain “look” is not helpful, however dismissing your child’s feelings entirely is not beneficial either. Listening to your child as they navigate the world’s standards is key.

The “beauty standard” of this world will fade, but what the Lord has revealed through His word will not. Speak the Word of God over your children and remind them of what the Lord says of their worth and beauty. Be intentional about defining beauty in your home. When your children are confident in their worth through Christ Jesus, they will be less likely to fall prey to the lies of this world.

Nothing But the Truth

If we’re going to start believing the truth about appearance and weight, we’ve got to go to the ultimate Source. What does our loving heavenly Father have to say about our bodies and real beauty? Check out these Scriptures:

  • Genesis 1:27 — You were made in the image of God.
  • Psalm 8 — In the whole wonderful universe, He gives you a place of honor.
  • Proverbs 31:30 — Outward appearances don’t matter as much as what’s inside.
  • Zephaniah 3:17 — The God of the universe takes delight in YOU!
  • Romans 5:8 — God loves you enough to send His Son to die for you.
  • 1 Peter 3:3 — How you look is not what really makes you beautiful.

Look especially at Psalm 139. The author of that poem knew that the human body is among God’s most miraculous creations. He thanked God for carefully forming our bodies even before birth — for creating us each unique and incredibly special. If God created our bodies, then they are good!

Truth: Your body is important because God created it — not because it looks a certain way.

An Ounce of Prevention

While almost everyone suffers from the influence of our culture’s lies, not everyone will respond by developing an eating disorder. If you or your child are not already in that trap, here are some practical ways to avoid developing an eating disorder:

  • Examine your attitudes and behaviors regarding weight and appearance.
  • Be a family focused on excellence, not perfection.
  • Make your home a safe place to share thoughts and feelings.
  • Process big changes as a family.
  • Recognize food as fuel for your body and eat sensibly.
  • Make a list of all your kids strengths — creativity, intelligence, compassion, patience, goodness, faithfulness, etc. Don’t include physical appearance. Focus on these gifts and talents that God gave them.
  • Be responsible and do not discriminate against anyone because of weight or physical appearance.

  • Take part in activities and friendships that enrich your life and encourage your children to do the same.
  • Remind yourself and your children that there is no ideal body shape, size and weight.
  • Most important, surrender your body and heart to God and know that God created you and loves you no matter what you look like. When you do this as a parent, it’ll encourage your children to do the same.

What if My Teen is Struggling?

If your child or teen is struggling with an eating disorder right now, take a step back. Don’t take it personally and don’t shame your teen. Instead, look at the whole environment of the home. Understand there is something deeper going on in your child’s life and they are in need of help. You as the parent need to admit your family has a problem, your teen has an eating disorder, and then you need to get help. The help you need doesn’t just need to be for the child who is struggling, but for your whole family. The healing process needs to go beyond just your individual child’s treatment. The sooner you get help, the better.

God wants you and your family to rest in Him. He knows all of your hurts and your desire for acceptance. You and your family are not hidden from the One who loves you all and created you all. Let Him call you to obedience and renew your strength as you meditate on the following Scripture:

“Why do you say …, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:27-31

Though eating disorders involve serious danger to your teen’s life, there is hope. You first have to be willing to admit the struggle and seek help. Many people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia feel utterly alone and think that telling someone will bring more rejection and disappointment. As Christian parents, it is important to create a loving and caring space for your struggling child.

Next Steps for an Eating Disorder

Depending on the severity of your situation, different types of assistance may be required, from counseling to hospitalization. It is important that you know your options as you take the next steps in your child’s recovery.

Truth: You can completely recover from an eating disorder — the sooner you get help, the better your chances are for recovery!

Though telling someone your secret may be terrifying, there is no better time to get help than now! If you don’t know where to turn, you can reach Focus on the Family’s counseling service by phoning 1-800-A-Family (232-6459) weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mountain Time. When you call, you will speak to a professional Christian counselor who can guide you to further assistance near you.

A few other resources include:

Just remember, there is a way out, but you have to take the first step! The Lord is with you every step of the way.

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Dr. Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication, apologetics, gender, and conflict resolution.  Tim and his wife, Noreen, are both on staff with Biola’s Center for Marriage and Relationships  where he is a co-host of The Art of Relationship podcast. 

Defending Your Marriage

Is your marriage under attack? Sometimes it can feel like the world is trying to tear your marriage apart. Internal conflicts or external pressures might make you wonder if something sinister is going on. How can you tell if you’re facing spiritual opposition? And what can you do about it? Tim Muehlhoff provides a straightforward resource for protecting your marriage from the threats of the evil one. He looks at what Scripture says about spiritual warfare and how our everyday struggles have deeper spiritual realities. And he provides practical steps for guarding our marriages with the whole armor of God.

Reigniting Your Passion for Jesus - Part 1

For those of faith whose passion has waned over time, Kim Meeder will reinspire you in your relationship with Jesus Christ as she tells powerful, true stories about God that will spark renewed joy in your heart and encourage you to share the Gospel with others.

Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization in Bend, Oregon, that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is a popular motivational speaker and the author of a half dozen books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch.

Revival Rising

With enthusiasm that will set ablaze your passion to reach the hurting, Kim Meeder encourages you to let the holy fire of God’s presence fill your heart, soul, mind and strength. As your fear and pride melt away, those around you who are losing their battle for hope will be transformed by encountering His redeeming love in you. This–this is revival rising.

Reigniting Your Passion for Jesus - Part 2

For those of faith whose passion has waned over time, Kim Meeder will reinspire you in your relationship with Jesus Christ as she tells powerful, true stories about God that will spark renewed joy in your heart and encourage you to share the Gospel with others.

Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization in Bend, Oregon, that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is a popular motivational speaker and the author of a half dozen books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch.

Revival Rising

With enthusiasm that will set ablaze your passion to reach the hurting, Kim Meeder encourages you to let the holy fire of God’s presence fill your heart, soul, mind and strength. As your fear and pride melt away, those around you who are losing their battle for hope will be transformed by encountering His redeeming love in you. This–this is revival rising.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 2

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage - Part 2

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 2

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

As a spouse, you have three roles to play—a friend, a partner, and a lover. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Pastor Kevin A. Thompson explores those different roles and challenges you to live them out by investing emotionally, physically, and mentally in your relationship. As friends, he suggests we learn to play and laugh together. As partners, he equips us with solid ways to handle conflict and communication. As lovers, he offers some thoughts on how to bring back the sizzle. He shares five keys to saving your marriage: humility, respect, mercy, communication, and resilience. You’ll be encouraged to intentionally invest in your marriage.

Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

You can confidently and lovingly share your faith—you just need to learn some new tactics to do so! In this Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, apologist Greg Koukl outlines the “Columbo” tactic of asking questions, the “self-defeating argument” tactic to find holes in your opponent’s arguments, and other specific methods for engaging in faith-building conversations with others. Greg pulls from his over 30 years of experience debating atheists and agnostics to help you share your faith with grace and truth.

Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, you’ll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 1

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

How a Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro-Life

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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