old shoes, new shoes

I’ve gone through the routine about a million times. You get your new pair of pointe shoes in the mail. You quickly sew them in study hall or between rehearsals. You don that new pair of perfectly satin pointe shoes and assess how they look on your feet. You then begin the journey to making them ‘just right.’ You might darn the platform or cut the shank and remove the nail or flatten the box or sew down the sides or adjust the drawstring or rough them up with scissors to add friction or hit them on the concrete to reduce noise or a multitude of other techniques to break them in.  Finally, after all of that work, you put them on and jump into class or rehearsal. You wear those new shoes proudly. It’s all fun and dance at first in new shoes. But inevitably the honeymoon phase will end and you’ll realize that those new shoes hurt a lot. They cause blisters and rub that bunion and make your weird fungus hole feel like someone hammered a nail through it. And you realize that you can’t run quietly in these shoes or roll through your box effortlessly or land gently and they aren’t molded perfectly to your feet. You realize all of these things and suddenly NEED to put back on your old, dead pointe shoes. You just really need to. So you pull the dead pointe shoes out of your bag and put back them on, loving how comfortable they are. They mold perfectly to your arch and make you feel much safer, more confidant and comfortable.

I realize that most people don’t have my particular pointe shoe experience, but the same can be said for street shoes. New shoes are clean and shiny, but the reality is they pinch and rub blisters and need to be broken in.

The same goes for eating disorder recovery.

Before you laugh and say “eating disorder recovery is nothing like breaking in a new pair of shoes” hear me out.

About a year and a half or so ago I was sitting in my therapists office relaying some story of how I failed at recovery. I was admitting to some kind of behaviors and bemoaning the fact that I just couldn’t get over this eating disorder completely and crying about how I felt like a failure at recovery. I’d never eat like a normal person. I would always have these little relapses. I was convinced I’d never be better.

That’s when my therapist interjected with her usual wisdom. She’s really good with analogies and in that moment she told me that recovering from an eating disorder is a lot like breaking in a new pair of shoes.

When you commit to recovering and regaining your health, you receive a new pair of shoes. These new pair of shoes are incredibly uncomfortable. You do NOT like the way they look or feel, but you put them on because you need to.  In recovery there are good days and bad days. On the good days, you kind of like the new shoes. After all, food does make one feel physically better even if it’s hard to make yourself eat it. They’re easier to walk confidently in. On the bad days, you really hate the new shoes. They’re rubbing in all the wrong places; you can hardly stand it. Some days you can deal with the rubbing. You reach out for support and admit you’re having a hard time. You remind yourself of truths and keep doing the next right thing. But some days are especially hard. You choose to restrict or use other behaviors. You just can’t deal with the new shoes, so you head to your closet where the old shoes (your eating disorder) are stashed and you make the switch. It feels good at first. It feels right and safe to have those shoes back on. You know exactly how you’ll feel in them, exactly what you can do in them. But the truth is after awhile of wearing the old shoes, you realize that while they’re known and comfortable and the new shoes are unknown and uncomfortable, they aren’t going to be able to get you where you want to go. Those old shoes are so worn out and now that you’ve had the new shoes on they feel less comfortable, more constricting and distressing. You can’t walk long distances in them or, if they’re pointe shoes, dance for hours in them. You can’t run after kids or go for a hike in the old shoes. You can’t go to a dinner party or the movies in them. Once you realize this (it may be hours, weeks or months), you make the switch back to the new shoes and see that although they’re difficult and uncomfortable at times it’s worth it to be able to live life. It’s worth the effort it takes to be able to truly live.

The wisdom I gained from my therapist through this analogy was this and it’s wisdom that applies to everyone, eating disorder or not. I will have hard days. I will have days where the last thing I want to do is choose recovery, choose life and freedom and truth. I will want to put on my old shoes that are cloaked in the lie that they will satisfy and make me feel good enough. I will want to choose temporary control instead of a life time in joyful communion with Christ. And some days, maybe a lot of days, I do choose the old shoes. I choose lies because I let the devil’s voice be louder than my God’s voice. But Jesus Christ saved me and when He did He gave me that brand new pair of shoes. I can never return those shoes. They were a gift without a gift receipt. So even if I choose to put on the old shoes (my old sinful flesh) for a time, my new shoes (my redeemed by the cross self) will still be there when I realize that the old shoes are not as comfortable as I thought.

The encouragement here for you is that whatever your two pair of shoes are, whether it be an eating disorder, body image issues, addiction, promiscuity, racism, anger, anxiety, etc., you can not lose your new shoes. You might choose to walk in the old shoes, your old fleshly habits, but Christ is always waiting with grace, forgiveness and those new shoes when you realize that the old shoes aren’t as great as you remember. 

That’s the truth. Our old sinful habits always seem fun and fulfilling, but they aren’t. They never were and never will be. We just can’t see this truth until we’ve experienced the grace and comfort of Christ our Lord. 

So if you’re wearing your old shoes, remember that those shoes will not be as comfortable because now, through your salvation, you’ve experienced new shoes and you can never go back. If you don’t have new shoes yet, ask. Jesus is the best shoemaker in all the universe and He really wants to give you a pair, but you have to ask for them. And lastly, if you’re wearing your new shoes, be brave and keep walking in them. I promise they’re the best shoes you’ll ever own and they have a lifetime warranty, free of charge! 

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to the girl who looks in the mirror

For my harvest-story friend and anyone else who looks in the mirror

To the girl who looks in the mirror and tears up at the reflection.

To the girl who looks in the mirror and wants to hide from what she sees, embarrassed and self-conscious.

To the girl who looks in the mirror and hates what looks back at her, hates all of what she sees. Wishes she was made differently.

To the girl who stares at that reflection day after day hoping that one day it’ll look different. Hoping that one day she will feel something different.

To the girl who stands before the mirror and picks apart everything that’s wrong, everything that makes you unworthy.

To the girl who stands in a leotard and tights day after day comparing what she sees on her frame to the bodies around her. It’s all too big. You want to turn away, but there’s no way to avoid the mirror.

To the girl who looks in the mirror, what do you see?

You see mistakes. You see failure. You see defeat and disappointment. You see what’s too big and what’s too flabby. You see what jiggles and what’s not defined. You see imperfections and flaws. You see all that’s not good enough.

Here’s what I see.

When I see you, I see redemption. I see beauty. I see grace. I see love mixed with pain. I see hurt in those eyes, but also fight. I see joy and sorrow intertwined. I see you choosing bravery. I see you choosing Truth. I see you using your mind to speak kindly to others. I see you using your body to hug friends and read books and laugh late and be a dancing light. I see you being the hands and feet of Jesus. When I see you, I see worthiness and value. I see Jesus loving through you.

And here is what HE sees.

When God looks at you, He sees your beauty, the beauty you have because you were made in the perfect image of Christ. He sees the glory of the Father reflecting back. He sees His daughter, His bride, His beloved, the one He experienced Hell for and the one He still pursues with a fury. When He looks at your body, He sees all of the lives you have and will touch with your hands, your heart and your words. He sees the one He chose from the darkness and brought into the Light. He sees you as precious and powerful, pleasing to His sight. He looks at you and remembers the great price He paid as your ransom and He declares that He would do it all again just to have you as His very own. When He looks upon your body, He sees it as a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, His temple.  What He sees when He looks at you is incomparable, entirely unexplainable, impossible to replicate. He sees you as brave and beloved.

Next time you stand before a mirror think about what God would say if He were there with you, because He is. Next time you look at your reflection, give thanks for the body you were blessed with and all of the things it allows you to do. And next time you’re tempted to believe the lie that your body is not good enough, remind yourself that your body is balanced and beautiful in Jesus name.

If you have a friend…

“I have a friend that’s struggling with an eating disorder and I don’t know what to do, what to say or how to help. Do you have any advice on how to approach this?”

I got asked this question recently. I had been asked it before, but this time I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would answer. What would I have wanted? What would have made me feel comfortable? What questions would get me to open up? Most people avoid eating disorders like the plague because they don’t know what to do or say. Not everyone is called or equipped to intervene, but if you feel you are, here is what I think an ideal intervention should look like.

Invite the person over to your home or somewhere comfortable, quiet and safe feeling. Preferably not a restaurant as that can be stressful and triggering. Sit down and just ask “how are you?” Don’t let the person say “I’m fine.” They are not fine though they will try to convince you they are fine with their dying breath. Pay attention to your posture, eye contact, and position. This can make a difference in the person feeling safe enough to share. Try to get the person to open up on their own through intentional questions. Maintain eye contact and show that you really want to hear their answers. Be prepared for potentially long silences while they figure out if you are safe enough to share and if they are brave (or desperate) enough tell you. Don’t be discouraged if the person won’t answer. They are having a mental battle going on between their voice of reason and their eating disorders voice. If they seem to be uncomfortable and struggling inside then don’t be afraid to say something such as, “I know you’re trying to be brave and hold it all together, but I see what’s happening to you. I see the state you’re in and I’m concerned, because I care about your well being.” Something along those lines, said with sincerity, will break down the wall they have built up to protect themselves and their eating disorder. Some of the best things people did/said to me were some of the hardest for both them to do/say and me to hear.

Bottom line, let the person know you’re a safe to confide in. Let them know you care. Let them know that while you may not fully understand, you want to. Show them through your words and actions that you love them regardless of whether they have it all together or not.

Finally, know that conversation is hard for both sides, but so very needed. It might not seem that way when the person you are trying to help pushes you away, avoids your questions, and acts like you are the last person they would ever want to be with in that moment. Rest assured it’s not you; it’s them (or their disorder). There is more to them than meets the eye.  They may clam up, push you away, or insist that they’re fine, but with every part of them (inside & out) they are crying for someone to notice, someone to save them from themselves and their mind. I know I felt so completely invisible, alone and bound up. I got angry at anyone who tried to help me because I was terrified of what they wanted me to do or share, but at the same time I desperately wanted someone to walk with me through my mine-field of a mind. I wanted someone to listen, someone to understand, someone to help me. Sometimes I just wanted someone to sit with me when my eating disorder voice was so loud I couldn’t think about anything else. My mind was a terrifying place. Anorexia is incredibly hard to deal with because you are not dealing with one rational mind. You are dealing with two very different minds in one. One of them is rational and the other is irrational and anxiety driven. Everything is contradictory, a battle between yourself and your mind. I can’t describe it, but it’s not something you want to walk through alone, which is why having someone intervene the way I just described is so desperately needed.

So if you have a friend who’s struggling, continue being a friend. Love them. Sit with them. Listen to them. Pray for and with them. Then pray for and with them again, because Jesus is the only one who can save them from themselves and shine light upon the darkness reigning in their mind.

Six Lessons on the Do’s & Don’ts of Eating Disorder Support

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, yet they are also one of the most misunderstood. I get asked what is and isn’t helpful to someone with an eating disorder a lot, so I wanted to touch on six lessons that everyone should learn, because everyone knows someone who’s struggling with this disorder.

Lesson One: Know what you’re getting yourself into.

Eating disorders are confusing, demanding and life threateningly serious. Warning: handling someone with an eating disorder is not for the faint of heart! It takes a lot of strength and courage, because of what eating disorders bring out in the suffering individual. The most compliant person will become stubborn. The amiable will become angry. The warm and friendly will become cold and distant. The moment you cross their eating disorder, the moment you try to make them eat or stop purging, is the moment that you become unsafe. You must walk in to the relationship prepared to fight fire or you will be seriously burned. The reason for this drastic change is simple. You are ripping (or threatening to rip) away their best friend, their comfort, their protection, their reliability and control. Would you be okay with someone doing that to you? I think not. The point of this lesson is, be prepared to fight to the death, because the eating disorder will stop at nothing less.

Lesson Two: Put on your listening ears.

I recently spoke with a dear friend from treatment who said that what helped her most was people listening without trying to fix anything. She just needed to be heard and validated in her feelings. And so did I and many others I have met. I was an emotional wreck wrapped up in a pretty package. I was afraid, angry, tired, confused and lonely, but I had no idea what to do about these thoughts and feelings racing through my mind. I felt like I was going insane. Thus having a friend that would just sit with me and listen was huge. I didn’t want anyone to try to fix it. I just wanted to be heard and validated.

Lesson Three: Watch your mouth.

If you are trying to be sensitive to the needs of your loved one, then you will feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them. I remember my parents telling me in the midst of my disorder that they felt like they had to walk on eggshells around me, because they didn’t know what they could and couldn’t say. I had no response for them then and I still don’t have a concrete one now. However, there are a few things people said that I know didn’t help. First of all, don’t say “I understand” if you don’t actually understand. (*Hint: if you didn’t have an eating disorder and aren’t a professional in the field then you probably do not understand, so just admit it.) Second, don’t downplay your loved ones feelings. They have a right to each and every one of their fears. They may be irrational to you, but believe me they are all too real for them. So don’t say things such as, “It’ll be fine, you’ll get over it, it’s not that bad, it’s just a phase, just eat something, pray about it and it’ll be fine.” Those responses will make them feel like their disorder isn’t that bad, that they need to be sicker to get help. It will confirm the lies they already believe about themselves. It will make them withdraw from you and others, because the dismissing of their very real problem makes them afraid to share for fear that people will think they are crazy. I know I only shared what was really going on in my mind with my therapist, because I was too afraid to tell anyone else about the voices in my head and the irrational anxiety/crying at the thought or act of eating. Lastly, don’t comment about weight. Just don’t. It will not end well. Basically, be sensitive and think before you speak. Try to put yourself in their shoes and if you don’t know what to say don’t say anything at all.

Lesson Four: Ask questions.

If you are in the position of friend to someone with an eating disorder then one of the best things you can do is ask intentional questions. “How did ____ make you feel? What were you thinking when ____ happened? What can I do to help you? How can I support you?” It might seem like they don’t like the questions on the outside, but I guarantee it’s good for them to process aloud and will make them feel loved, known, cared for and like you see and acknowledge the hurt inside of them.

Lesson Five: Give support and space.

Support is necessary, but it has to be the right support combined with space. Mealtime support was particularly good for me, but I absolutely hated it. I was afraid to eat in front of people, especially when I knew they were specifically watching me. I refused mealtime support whenever possible until I got into treatment and had to have meal support. What I learned was that meal support is extremely helpful in treatment, because there was no judgment, just support from people who understood and were walking alongside me. Give non-judgmental support, but also give space. Don’t ask what they’ve eaten unless they specifically ask you to keep them accountable. Constant questions about food add pressure and anxiety to their already overwhelmed, overloaded mind. Don’t make a big deal about the food, because it’s not about the food at all. Your focus on what they’re eating exacerbates their already hyper-focused on food mind. It’s the dietitians job to handle the food and make sure they have adequate meal time support. Your job as their friend or loved one (unless directed otherwise by a professional) is to give them support and space by focusing on their heart & mind.

Lesson Six: Recognize the reality.

The last thing you can do is acknowledge that this is a disorder and a disease, not just a fad or diet plan. Recognize the reality that they have a mental illness, a mental disease, and cannot get well on their own. Tell them that while you do not understand the disorder itself, you do recognize that it is a serious problem. This will make them feel safe around you and hopefully, give them the courage needed to face their fears.

Everyone is different, so every eating disorder will be different. There are no magic words or cures that will work for everyone, because every single case is different. Thus these lessons are not all encompassing. They are not six easy and foolproof steps to getting someone through recovery, but they are solid guidelines to follow.

 

 

the unexpected document: fears and satisfaction

I’ve never reblogged before, but this is simply too good and too necessary not to share! I need to be reminded to trust God with my food life. “Eat right & trust God” might become my new go to refocusing saying. Enjoy!

the pilot pen

To Ashley…
It was a mystery word file floating in the midst of my documents.
The idea of having to write a poem for my creative writing class (NO THANK YOU!) led me to utter procrastination. I was searching through my documents, remembering when I wrote that short story, or wondering why I had never finished that novel… or that one… or that one.
Then I came across one peculiarly titled. To Ashley… “Well that’s odd,” I thought to myself, and I opened it. I was definitely surprised when it revealed to be a letter from my older sister (pictured above… isn’t she beautiful!!). It was something she wrote to me about a year ago. Neither of us know how it got into my documents, she doesn’t remember sending it and I don’t remember saving it. But there it was! I read it through and found myself greatly touched. The letter…

View original post 1,232 more words

Breathing Room

Lord, I need breathing room.

That has been my prayer the last couple weeks. When my therapist breathed those words out and I breathed them in– breathing room– a weight I didn’t even know I carried, lifted.

Breathing room. Space. Leeway. Margin. However you say it, I need it.

I’ve never had breathing room. I’ve lived the last 8 (at least) years in a confined space, a box, a little square drawn in the sand. I’ve lived stuck. Stuck in a tight spot. Claustrophobic but afraid.

Eating disorders, many mental illnesses and compulsive behaviors leave no breathing room. They are the tightest-of-tight boxes and the smallest-of-small spaces. There is no room for anything but the rules, the expectations (of self or others), the behaviors. There is no bending from anorexia to go to a birthday party. There is no pausing over-exercising, self-harm or purging just because there is an opportunity to travel. No. No, because there is no breathing room in any of those situations. There is no room for error, no room for a change in plans. You do not stray from the black line. You do not change plans. You do not change your mind. You simply do not, because there is no room for that.

There is no room, because room, margin, leeway. They all mean mistakes, errors, mess-ups, mishaps — failure. Room to breathe means room to fail. And I have never allowed room to fail. Perfection, yes. Failure, absolutely not I’d rather die.

Perfection leaves no breathing room. Anything outside of the realm of perfection, of the expectations placed upon us, is utter catastrophe, sending the world into a dizzy.

I grew up sticking myself in that little box out of fear, desire to please, perfectionism. No one had to put me there. I didn’t need anyone to draw those black lines of my “allowed square inch.” I did that myself.

Strangely enough, I have always hated tight things, anything that confines me physically. I am seriously claustrophobic, yet I am drawn towards this tight confining life. The life that says when and what you can eat, who you can see, what you can do and say, unwritten rules galore.  Rigid, unrelenting, changeless, unforgiving.

So when I heard those words — breathing room, give yourself breathing room– I thought “Can I? Can I really?” All the confining I had done on purpose. All of the restricting I had inflicted upon myself. All of the rigid rules. I did those things. I inflicted it, enforced it. I gave myself a life of confinement, a life without air, without any room to breathe, to fail.

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I gave myself that kind of life, but now I’m choosing to give myself a life that breathes. I need  to give myself room to have hard or bad days. I need room to get overwhelmed and cry. I need room to be imperfect. Because life is not perfect. My family and friends are not perfect. College will not be perfect. There will be overwhelming, hard, straight up bad days where I just want to throw my hands up in defeat. Without breathing room those days are too much, unrecoverable. Those days are failure and make me want to quit. But, insert some breathing room, stretch that square inch a bit, and that same day can be called good. I can laugh at that day. I can pause, breathe deep and say, “this too is good.”

That extra room means that what would have been failure in my teeny-tiny perfect box can instead be called grace, growth, good. That extra room means release of the pressure to be good enough, an end to the proving and the living up. That extra room means God has room to move. Room to change me, bend and break me, mold and challenge me, love and grow me. In my confining life there was no room for anything “else,” not even God.

As I have thought and prayed over this need for breathing room, God gave me this — You don’t need more breathing room. You already have all the room you need. I gave you all the room you could possibly need on the Cross. Just take it. Use it. 

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(image via Pinterest)

Talk about dumb-struck. Of course I have all the room I need. Jesus gave me all the room in the world to fail and fumble and fall on the cross. He gave me so much room, grace (unmerited, undeserved favor), to mess up that I will never be able to use even half of it. It’s immeasurable the grace He has bestowed upon me. James 4:6 says, “But he gave us more grace.” He didn’t just give grace, He gave more grace and even more on top of that. His grace has no constraints. It is freely given to all. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Not just the good or the perfect or the tall or the thin or the pretty or the smart or the talented, but to all. Yet this grace was not given because of something I did. No, this grace is a gift. It’s a gift that God gave in His Son. It’s a gift that cost more than we will ever be able to comprehend. And it’s a gift that we choose to breathe in and live out of daily.

I will leave you with this question — do you need to use more of your gifted breathing room?

Remembering: Two Years Later

Two years later. Two years older. Two years changed. Two years different. Two years stronger. Two years braver.

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It’s been two years since I first began treatment. Two years since I shuffled through the doors of Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders. Two years since that became my home away from home. I remember that first day, like it was yesterday. Walking in to unfamiliar faces. Having to sit down with these strangers and face the unthinkable. Then being forced to talk about how it went. Did you enjoy the food? No. What did you not like? All of it. Were you afraid? Uhhh…yes, out of my mind. Did you use any behaviors? Of course I did. I didn’t finish that disgusting cottage cheese that you evil people are trying to make me fat and ruin my life with. That was the gist of that first day. Curled up on a chair in an “illegal” position, journaling my fear and hate while avoiding having to speak.

Life for the first several weeks was rather ugly. Blind weigh-ins. Blood pressure monitoring. Constant meals. Never ending FOOD. Exhaustion. Insomnia. Coping skills torn away from my tightened grip. Trying to put on a strong front, while wanting to disappear every moment of every day. I got good at pretending and making people believe I was doing better than I really was. I think it’s part of the territory.

Needless to say, two years ago my life was a wreck. Not in school. Not living at home. Not on good (or even speaking) terms with my family. Anxiety and panic attacks sky-rocketing. Depression chronic. Anorexia raging. Pretending my way out of questions and consequences. Pushing everyone away, except my “chosen” few. My body eating itself until it shut down so many processes that living “normally” was getting hard. My brain on one track and one track only: restrict until you’re worthy, until you disappear, until you’re enough, until the anxiety & sadness go away.

I entered the anger phase of treatment. Anger coursed through my being. Why do I have to eat? Why is everyone forcing me to eat? Why does my body need it? I was angry that I had to succumb to such weakness (eating = weakness). I thought I should be stronger than food. I should be above it, above the physical need for it. I hated food itself and anyone who made me touch it. I even hated myself for needing it (for some reason I thought I should be the only human ever that didn’t need to eat…like what?). Every meal I battled for control. Less food means more control. More control means less fear and unworthiness.

Everyone around me that was trying to save me, were (in my eyes) trying to kill me, ruin my life, take away everything I loved/needed while giving me absolutely nothing in return except weight (i.e. fat, because to an ED patient all weight is fat even though most of it is bone mass, organ mass, heart/brain mass, water, etc).

Part of an eating disorder is suppression. Suppression of appetite, hunger/fullness cues, emotions, thoughts and feelings, even reality. Treatment is designed to trigger the release of that suppression, so at some point you become a ticking time-bomb. You become a walking volcano of everything you’ve been suppressing. If you’re like me, then you still suppressed things in public, but trust me, my journal and my therapist got spewed on daily, many times a day.

I remember the day that Taylor and I saved the day…or something like that. Bathroom buddies are totally a thing in treatment and so is asking a fellow patient “are you puking in there” and then going to get help because obviously that’s a no-no.

I remember the day we smashed scales in the parking lot with huge hammers and released balloons with notes inside about what we need to let go relating our disorders. Smashing the scale was smashing the lies, the standards, the expectations, the anger, the fear and everything else. Plus it was a great stress reliever and we got lots of weird looks which was funny.

I remember the day we made puppets and talked down our eating disorder voices. I watched light bulbs go off around me. I remember watching now friends and recovery partners throwing clay as hard as they could at the wall and yelling at their ED voices. I remember when we had hard days where abuse was spoken of and people wanted to jump out windows and tears were shed by all and families gathered. I remember family therapy and letting a little bit of my shield down. I remember the day I finally opened up to one of the therapists and she hugged me and thanked me. I remember the new faces as well as the old. I remember saying hello as well as goodbye. I remember the worry when people discharged against doctors recommendation without a trace. I remember arguing over who was going to go see the psychiatrist first and making faces at each other across the table at food we didn’t like. I remember the day we all cried over chef salad and didn’t leave a man behind. I remember the video we watched on wolves and everyone trying not to burst into laughter during the pointless session about that wolf video. And of course, I remember that Prince George was born while I was at Renfrew.

Most of all I remember the complete hopelessness, the desperation, the lack of purpose. I believed I was worthless & unlovable so I lived that way. I remember the anxiety and anger, the withdraw, the avoidance. I also, remember the subtle shifts, the changes. I remember the first day I felt hungry. I remember the first day I asked for help. I remember finding my voice and asking questions that we all were thinking. I remember being challenged in my faith. I remember the ups and the downs and all of the things I learned.

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I learned to sit with hard emotions instead of act upon them.

I learned to use my voice.

I learned that my body is an awful lot better at knowing what’s best for it than I am.

I learned to trust the professionals around me.

I learned that my family is for me, I just needed to let down my wall and allow them to come in.

I learned to say, “I have anorexia” instead of avoiding the question or making excuses.

I learned to say “this too shall pass” when uncomfortable emotions and anxieties threatened to send me into a panic.

I learned that I have so many people on my side, praying and battling on my behalf when I was too sick to do so.

I learned that I don’t have to be happy all the time.

I learned that self-hatred was killing me and I was letting it.

I learned to put myself in positive, healthy places with people that speak truth.

I learned about my core beliefs and how everything stems from them.

I learned that though nothing will ever feel as comfortable and safe as my eating disorder did, things willbegin to feel okay, even good.

I learned that change is scary as it ever was, but it’s also so so good.

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Moral of the story is, treatment is hard, recovery is just as hard, but God is good and He provides, sustains, empowers and encourages. He does incredible works through the most incredible pain. He never stops or disappears even in situations where He is (seemingly) nowhere to be found. He moved mountains for me and still is. He gave love where I gave hate. He gave grace where I needed it most. He gave courage when I was about to give up. He showed me what redemption looks like. He gave me reasons to live, to mend, to hope, to love.

Two years ago I was lost, hopeless, afraid. Two years later I am a different person. Made new, new life and hope. Given passions to pursue and relationships to foster.

Two years later. Two years braver. Thank you Lord, for these two years.

Chapter 2: Fat

I’m going to attempt to shed some light on the “fear of fat” that people with eating disorders have. It’s a fear that comes with a lot of questions and stigma. I’d say most people dislike fat and want to avoid it. So when they hear that it’s a symptom of anorexia they think one of two things: “I don’t want to get fat, so I must be afraid of fat. Oh no! I must have an eating disorder” or “No one wants to be fat, but why would anyone actually be afraid of something so silly? Eating disorders are just made up because no one would be stupid enough to be afraid of fat.” Do either of those ring any bells?

The fear of fat that anorexics and bulimics have is so real and so raw and so deep that I’m not sure I can even describe it, but I’ll do my best to bring those who aren’t “in the know” into this very real fear that so many face day in and day out.

Let me begin by making something clear. To most people with anorexia, food equals weight gain, weight gain equals fat, and fat equals ______. That blank is filled in with something that may vary from person to person, but in my case, that blank was filled in with these words: failure, lack of (self) control, worthlessness.

Fat signifies failure, lack of control, and shame. Gaining weight means that one has failed and lost all control over themselves and the world around them. Gaining weight is the ultimate fear because it symbolizes the crashing down of all security, comfort, protection and control.

Let me try to help you understand this insane fear of fat. Imagine your worst fear with me. I mean your absolute worst fear (not a little fear like my fear of cockroaches). It may be swallowing all your teeth in the middle of the night, getting your limbs gnawed off by a shark, or falling off of a cliff into a lake of lava where you burn to smithereens. Do you get my point? It has to be your worst fear that will probably never ever happen. How do you feel when you imagine your worst fear happening to you right now? Terrible, right? How would you react? Now imagine that the threat of that fear happening to you exists every second of every day. The threat of a shark attacking you or your head being blown off exists every day and you can’t get away from it. How does that make you feel?

You’re probably thinking I’m exaggerating, but sadly, I’m not. The fear of becoming fat is the kind of fear that leaves you in tears, hyperventilating, panicking. It’s the full on adrenaline rushing, fight or flight, cold sweat, searching for any sort of escape kind of fear. It’s the kind of fear you feel when watching The Call times a million, except you can’t push pause or close your eyes to make it stop.  The fear it induces is the kind of fear that causes reactions such as lashing out or fleeing the scene.

It’s not that people with eating disorders are dangerous or crazy (although some people like to argue that they are), but if you were being forced to jump off a cliff, wouldn’t you fight against it, lash out, try to flee? YES! That’s exactly how it is for someone who is terrified of gaining weight. Someone making them eat, is equivalent to someone making you jump off a cliff or walk into a den of hungry lions. You’d be insane to do either of those things willingly.

Fat becomes a curse word. Its utterance is not allowed in treatment. The avoidance of it becomes an idol, a reason to live. The gain of it becomes a reason to die, to disappear.

The thought of it, is enough to bring one to tears. I remember being in treatment and seeing the buttered bagel on my plate (the bagel that I HAD to eat) and crying because I simply could not, could not, put it in my mouth. I could not let it touch my lips. I could not let in to my body, for I knew that it would ruin me. I knew that it would leave be worthless and unlovable.

Before you start thinking, “Wow, people with eating disorders are psycho” let’s look at why this fear exists.

The fear of fat or of weight gain has so many factors, many of which are highly biological and linked to ones genetics and psychological makeup, but I don’t want to focus on those today. Instead, I’m going to focus on the fear itself.

The fear of fat is deeply rooted in lies. It’s rooted in lies about ones identity and worth. The intense fear of gaining weight can only take over if your identity and worth are tied up in lies. An identity that is rooted in what the world says will be vulnerable to the fear of gaining weight. If ones worth is found only in earthly things then only earthly things will grow.

Fear is just a lie

Fear is just a lie. The fear of gaining weight stems from the lie that you are unlovable if you gain weight. The fear of fat stems from the lie that you are unworthy of good things if you are fat. The fear of fat stems from the lie that you are a failure if you gain weight. Don’t you see? Fear is just a lie. The fear of fat, the fear of gaining weight and becoming healthy is just a lie. A big old lie that Satan is trying to make you believe. Because, the second you and I believe that lie we are left powerless, which is exactly where Satan wants us.

The very first thing Satan did in the Garden of Eden was deceive Eve. He told her a lie, she believed it and that lie left her powerless, so she ran and hid from God (Genesis 3:3-13).

Jesus says this about Satan in John, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan is a liar. He just is, but you, you are not of Satan, you are of Jesus Christ and therefore can have victory over his lies.

We have now covered what the fear of fat looks like for someone with an eating disorder and what this fear really is, a lie. Now we have to ask, what is there to be done about this fear? About this lie?

I wish I had a three-step, fail proof solution, but I don’t. In fact, nobody does. No doctor, no therapist, no dietitian, no psychologist, no one has an easy solution to overcoming the fear of fat that is an ever present lie. That statement should not leave you feeling hopeless. While no MAN has an answer, GOD most certainly does. He has all of the answers and he longs for you and I to tuck in close, breathe deeply and to trust Him with our fears.

Because when we seek the Lord, he answers and delivers us from all of our fears (paraphrased Psalm 34:4).

Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not have to fear evil (food, fat, weight gain, failure, loss of control, anything) because He is with us (Psalm 23:4, emphasis added).

When we are overcome by these fears, we need only put our trust in Him. In God whose word we praise — In God we trust and therefore are not afraid. What can mere mortals (what can fat, food or weight) do to us when we have GOD on our side? (Psalm 56:3-4, paraphrased, emphasis added).

This topic is an extensive one. Each sentence could be expanded upon and books could be written, but I hope that you, my reader, have learned a few things from this post.

I hope you’ve learned that:

1. The fear anorexics (and bulimics) have of food, fat, weight gain is so incredibly real.

2. These fears are lies placed deceitfully by the devil to leave Gods children powerless.

3. No fear, no lie is too small or too big for God. He can and will overcome them all as we seek and trust Him…run to Him.

Chapter 1: Food

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Imagine with me that you are in one of my favorite places, a book store. You see shelves upon shelves of books in all directions. Books on health, beauty, art, science, dance, food, you name it they have it! But two special books stand out. One of these books is The World’s Book. The store has thousands of them, yet cannot keep up with the demand for more. Another book the store sells is God’s book. Although this book has fabulous reviews, few people buy it and the store only has a few in stock.

I went to this book store and bought the only obvious choice, The World’s Book. I read this book from cover to cover. I memorized it. I spouted it off to people. I turned a deaf ear to anyone who disagreed with MY book. What did they know, anyway?  I believed every word I read. This bestselling book ruled my life.

What is The World’s Book about? It’s about lots of things. Its many chapters, range from worth and purpose to love and beauty. The author loves to write about success and popularity. One of my personal favorite chapters was chapter one. The chapter on food. Here’s what this well worn book says about food.

The World’s Book

  • Food is bad and the less of it the better.
  • Eating food = getting fat which = failure.
  • Food is for pleasure alone.
  • What you eat or don’t eat determines your worth.
  • Extremes (gluttony and restriction) are the only options.
  • There is no such thing as a balanced diet.
  • Food should be an idol, a god in our lives.
  • What you eat should consume all of your time thoughts, and energy.
  • You must control your diet or YOU are out of control.
  • If you eat _____ or _____ you are fat.
  • If you’re not worried about food all the time then you’re doing something wrong.
  • You should always be on a diet of some sort.
  • There is NO peace in a relationship with food.
  • Your life and identity hinges on your food choices.

I don’t know about you, but I believed a lot of what this book told me about food. I believed my identity was linked to what and how much I ate. I believed that my worth could be changed by controlling my food intake. I believed that my physical need for food (without it we die) made me a failure. I believed that food was a bad and hateful substance that wanted to make me fat and ruin my life (sounds crazy, right? That’s an ED brain for ya, folks!). I believed all sorts of crazy things about food.

I distinctly remember a few weeks into treatment and normal eating that my dietitian said “Arden, eating food doesn’t mean you will get fat.” You should have seen the look I gave her! It was a combination of “you’re insane” and “I want to jump out of that window look,” if that helps you visualize it. Needless to say, I told my dear dietitian just how wrong and misinformed she was. Silly dietitian Brandi, just didn’t understand that food immediately turns into fat and is then glued to various parts of my body once it goes into my mouth. I mean, duh! Everyone knows that! Not to worry, I educated her on this fact.

I slowly realized that my dietitian was (gasp!) right! She actually told me after a month of treatment that she could not get me to gain anymore weight despite me being on the highest food plan level. It was then that things started to click. My brain started turning. I began to think maybe, just maybe, Brandi and Kelly and Lorena and Dr. Lee and my parents and countless others were actually right. Maybe I can eat and not get fat…or at least not too fat. Maybe food isn’t the devil. Maybe food isn’t trying to kill me (what a novel thought, right!). The biggest shocker came when I thought this, Maybe this book I’ve been memorizing is WRONG. Maybe The World’s Book is all wrong. 

The change was painfully slow and included many reverse trips, but it started with these “maybe’s” and continues through constant reflections on my relationship with food.

Now that I know and am coming to terms with the fact that The World’s Book is all wrong, I have to figure out what is right. I’ve struggled with this change for awhile. I mean, how do I know what is true about food after believing lies for so long, lies that are ingrained in my mind and subconsciously thought?

My most recent assignment and step towards figuring this whole healthy, normal food relationship thing was to write down what God’s Book says about food.

God’s Book

  • Food is His provision for me (Psalm 104:14) (Psalm 145:15-16)
  • Food is a blessing from the Lord
  • Food is GOOD (Ecclesiastes 9:7)
  • Food is not what makes me good or bad (Matthew 15:11)
  • Food is a source of LIFE, along with the Word of God (Matthew 4:4)
  • Food doesn’t have the power to make me a failure
  • Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and should be cultivated and practiced (Galatians 5: 23-25)
  • Worth comes from Him alone
  • Balance is possible
  • Jesus understands food
  • The Son of Man himself came eating and drinking (Matthew 11:19)
  • “You shall have no other gods (including food) before Me.”
  • Food is not all or nothing (Proverbs 23:21)
  • Food shouldn’t be a cause of anxiety (Matthew 6:25-27)
  • Identity is linked to Him not food/diet
  • There is freedom and peace from bondage to food

Which book do you want to buy, read, memorize and live by?   I’ll take God’s Book. He is a much better author.

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(Shout out to Pastor Dave for the current sermon series “The Son of Man Came Eating & Drinking.” It’s obviously impacted me a lot. Thanks!)