If a friend told you she was sick, you’d respond with compassion, right?
When my friend told me she was struggling with an eating disorder, I didn’t feel compassion or sympathy or concern. Instead, I was angry. Angry that she had cheated to get the body I had always envied. The sleek figure, the toned abs–it was all a lie.
I worked out, I ate healthy, I disciplined my body into shape. She just threw it all up.
As her eyes welled with tears, my stomach churned with the ugly elixir of jealousy. Outwardly, I responded with the compulsory, “I’m so sorry,” and “How can I help?” Inside, I raged.
That night I lay in bed and tried to pray for her. I tried to ask God for healing. I tried to envision a picture of her healthy and whole, healed. Every time I closed my eyes, I could only see her sexy, skinny body, her tanned abs and seductive smile. Focused on her perfect body; I was blind to her pain.
I used to think eating disorders were an issue of vanity. The ultimate in first world problems. To me, eating disorders were classified by disordered actions—throwing up or not eating or working out like crazy– not disordered thoughts.
I’d meticulously track my meals, chart my workouts—the conditioning circuits, the hill sprints, the bike rides—and stare at my stomach in the mirror, waiting for a six-pack to emerge, all the while scoffing at the crazy girls who threw up their food.
I was disciplined; they were disordered.
In the dark of the night I prayed through my anger, asking God to reveal its root. An emotion flashed bright and ugly against the dark: JEALOUSY.
I wanted her body. I wanted her discipline. I wanted the attention. —Even if it took an eating disorder to get there.
I recoiled. Sat straight up in bed.
That’s when I first realized I had a disorder, too.
I didn’t throw up. I didn’t stop eating. I didn’t engage in unhealthy behaviors. But I was just as trapped and enslaved to my workout regiment and food rules as she was to her purging. I was a fellow prisoner of comparisons, self-hatred, and the-never-good-enough. I was broken.
I stopped praying for my friend; I started praying for myself. How could I help her on her road to healing when I was so sick myself?
Over the next few months, God transformed my heart. He began to reveal the lies I believed about myself–that I was only as valuable as I was sexy, that I was a fat ugly blob if I didn’t work out, that my worth was based on my daily perception of body fat. He began to reveal the lies I believed about my friend–that she was the enemy, the competition, my rival in the contest to be the thinnest, look the hottest.
And He began to replace the lies with truth: I am not my body. Sexiness does not equate value. My friend is not the enemy. Eating disorders go beyond vanity; the disordered thoughts and behaviors are symptoms of a greater spiritual battle, a matter of identity, of worth.
So I began to fight–for both of us, my friend and I.
I still have a long way to go. But I’ve learned that we will never break free from these disordered thoughts if we don’t have right relationships. If we aren’t honest with ourselves.
I don’t want to be the kind of person whose heart doesn’t break when a friend tells me she’s sick. I don’t want to be the kind of person who cares more about working out then spending time with friends. I don’t want to believe the lies anymore.
I hope you said yes because I want to start a series on this blog devoted to recovering our true identity as God’s worthy and beautiful children. In this series, called Hungry, I’ll share some of my own struggles and healing in this area and encourage you to do so as well. I hope it will be safe place to be honest about the lies we believe about ourselves and our bodies. I hope it will be a catalyst for restoration and transformation. I’ll provide challenges, activities, prayers, and resources for those who want to join me on this journey to freedom.
I’ll start by sharing the best resource I’ve found. My friend, Jessica Skinner, wrote a book about her victory over anorexia and bulimia. Her book has transformed my life and my relationships and brought healing and light to places of darkness.
For those of you who can relate to these thoughts, I encourage you to buy it. Read it. Share it.
For those of you who can’t relate to the eating disorder part, but have ever struggled with self-worth, identity, or addiction. Buy it. Read it. Share it.
For those of you who know someone or have even the remotest of possibilities of knowing someone someday who is suffering from eating disorders, low self-esteem, or distorted body image and want to learn ways to better care for and support them. Buy it. Read it. Share it.
For those of you who live in Southern California or have a tv or know any one who does–even the men out there. Buy it. Read it. Share it.
And for those of you who can’t afford it, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will buy you a copy myself. I think it’s worth it. I think you’re worth it.
Let’s journey together to denounce the body of lies and walk in His truth and freedom.
To learn more and buy a copy of Jessica’s book, Hungry: One Woman’s Battle with and Victory over Anorexia and Bulimia, click here.
Jessica was recently featured in the Newport Beach Independent! To read more about Jessica’s heart and journey and how eating disorders are no game, click here.
Give me feedback! Do you resonate with this topic? What kind of resources would you like to see? Have you experienced healing in this area?