My Fight With an Eating Disorder
Throughout my teenage years and into the beginning of university, I struggled with anorexia, bulimia, and then binge eating disorder. It was a challenging and dark period, not just for me, but for those around me too. However, it was also an experience that brought me closer to God and really made me realize who I am in Christ. And it was this realization which was the instrumental piece to my recovery. My hope and desire is that my experience can be used to help others.
My eating disorder started with a healthy eating stunt. I read a book about healthy eating and decided I needed to make some drastic changes to my diet. Over time, this became an obsession. I created rules for myself to follow that I deemed were healthy eating rules. I was very good about following these rules; I didn’t allow myself to break any of them. However, the effect was drastic weight loss and a change in personality. I socially isolated myself, I was moody, and irritable. BUT, despite what people told me: I didn’t have a problem. My weight loss was not a cause for concern and most of all; I didn’t have an eating disorder. I wasn’t anorexic.
I created rules for myself to follow that I deemed were healthy eating rules
The realization that something was wrong, took a little longer. I had to hit a little lower for that to come. I think it was a gradual awareness and acceptance that my behaviours were neither normal nor healthy, nor was my body. I didn’t like the person I had become; I was cold all the time and I never had enough energy, and I was obsessed with what I ate. My family through all of this were very concerned and I strongly believe if it weren’t for their concern, I would have continued with my unhealthy behaviours.
However, knowing that you need to change and doing it are two entirely different things! My rules and patterns of behavior were safe and comforting. Trying to break free from them was like diving from a high cliff.
Once I acknowledged a change was needed and that I needed to gain weight back, I started eating in secret. I still wanted to appear in public as if I was following my rules. I would feel incredibly guilty for “bingeing” and I needed a way to alleviate the guilt for eating too much. And that’s when I started throwing up. This binge/purge cycle would happen a few times per week or sometimes a few times a day. Sometimes, I would use exercise as a way of “getting rid” of the extra calories.
This continued all the way to the beginning of university. I decided once I started university that I wouldn’t throw up anymore. I would stop the cycle. Which I did. However, my relationship with food and my body were far, far away from healthy. My binges continued and I gained a lot of weight. This was an extremely difficult change to go through because my worst nightmare had come to life – I had become fat! It was a dark time for me.
So what helped me during my recovery?
I don’t think there is just one answer for that. My recovery was a process, where I had to face why I chose to use those unhealthy behaviours in the first place. There were many people who helped me along my journey to recovery. My family was instrumental and I also saw a therapist. However, the biggest part of the puzzle was God.
Growing up as a Christian, I knew that God loved me. BUT, it didn’t mean anything for me… I didn’t believe it. I cried out to God to show me what it meant that he loved me. I so desperately wanted to be loved. To be good enough. I was depressed and lonely. I used food to make myself feel better. Then I would lament that my body didn’t look how I wanted it to and the cycle would continue. However, I was continuously begging God through prayer for answers. I scoured the Bible for scriptures for myself. I repeated them over and over again.
I had such low self-esteem, but...I got Christ-esteem
The answer took a while and I couldn’t even tell you what exactly made it living for me, but when it did, it changed everything. Because God loved me (ROMANS 8), it didn’t matter how I viewed myself or what I did. His love for me was not conditional on how I felt about myself, what I did or didn’t do, or what I looked like. His love for me transformed how I saw myself. I was worthy, I was good enough! I was complete, loved, cherished, at peace, and unburdened (JOSHUA 1:9, PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7, PSALM 55:22, ROMANS 8:28). I didn’t have to be afraid of the future or if I was going to mess up again because even if I did, it was alright, God was there (ISAIAH 41:10). He was in charge (ROMANS 8:31). The pressure was off of me. He was taking care of me (JEREMIAH 29:11). I could give everything over to God. I knew that He wanted the best for me (1 JOHN 4:4). He would give me hope and a vision for the future. Ah, how amazing that was. If you think that it was just this realisation and then all was good, you’re mistaken. It would be a little bit of a rollercoaster. The lies would creep back in. That I was not good enough, I was too fat, a failure, ugly, and unlovable. And back I would have to go to God to rediscover and remind myself how he saw me. All I had to do was surrender it all over to Him.
I had such low self-esteem, but when I discovered how much God loved me, I got Christ-esteem. You may ask what Christ-esteem is. It’s a confidence in one’s worth and abilities based on who you are in Christ. If you have Christ-esteem, circumstances don’t matter because who you are in Christ isn’t based on circumstances. Isn’t that amazing?!
Seeing myself in this light, helped me stop relying on my eating disorder behaviours. I didn’t have to hate my body. I didn’t have to starve myself. Food was not dangerous or scary. I didn’t have to throw up or over-exercise. Food didn’t have to be something I had to reach for if I was feeling down or insecure. I was allowed to eat and enjoy it.
There is so much more I could share, but I think the big thing to take away is what a miracle and blessing it was that I recovered. I want to give God the glory because I know he was looking out for me during this time. There were times were I just felt so empty and so lost. But he was always there. He guided the whole situation. He had a better purpose for it. I am sure that he helped me come to the realization that I needed to get better. I grew into the person I am today because of my experiences.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” PSALM 119:71