what college taught me about food and my body

Last summer, as I was getting ready to start college, I had one huge unspoken fear. FOOD.

Most people are nervous about classes and friends. I was tied in a knot over food. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how I would react. I didn’t know who would understand, if anyone. I wasn’t nervous about it, I was scared.

I was scared for months leading up to college. I would sit on my couch in my therapist’s office week after week and go over the same “what ifs.” What if this? What if that? All of my “what ifs” and my fears concerning food and my body were glaring me in the face. The only voices I could hear were telling me, “Just wait. You’ll be overwhelmed and out of control. You’ll eat too little and spiral downward again. You’ll never recover. Or you’ll eat too much. You won’t know what to do. You’ll gain the freshman fifty and no one will love you.” My ears were tuned to hear only fear and failure. My eyes trained to see only what could go wrong.

So I entered college, with these barely exposed fears. I had only just gotten used to my food routine at home and now it was turned upside down, inside out. I had no idea what territory I was embarking on.

I can’t say it was a perfect transition, because it wasn’t. I had a few meltdowns in the cafeteria. I had a few silent cries. I had some subconscious restrictions. A few calls and emails to my home base. Many frantic questions and fears and failures scribbled in my journal. It was not perfect, but I’m okay with that, because it taught me a few of the most important lessons I could’ve learned.

I was reading 1 Timothy 4 and it was as if the Holy Spirit lifted a veil from before my eyes and I could see a new picture of food. “Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars, who forbid people to marry and teach them to abstain from certain kinds of foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and have knowledge of the truth. For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is hallowed and consecrated by the Word of God and by prayer” (1 Timothy 4: 2-5). In the prior verses Timothy says that these things will come from “seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach.” These rules and regulations concerning food are not of God. They come from hypocrites and liars. Food rules and restrictions are not of the Lord. They are of Satan who seeks to use what God meant for good, to destroy us, to leave us unable to serve the Kingdom.

I read this passage over and over again, specifically verse four, because of the truth it spoke.

Food is good.

Food is good. It’s goodness itself. And it’s a central part of how we experience God’s goodness towards us. Food matters. Food is part of God’s new and good creation. He created food and He called it good. He didn’t call some foods good and others bad. It doesn’t say some foods or the “safe” food or even the healthy food. It says everything. (Read verse four again if you don’t believe me). He called them all good. He says everything, all foods, He created are good. Let that truth sink in.

Not only does God call food good for us, He shows it’s good for Himself as well. When Jesus came to earth He ate food. He ate the same food as everyone else. He didn’t have some sort of “perfect heavenly food.” The food here on earth was perfect and literally sent from Heaven. It was, is, created by God in Heaven to be good and perfect for our bodies. Nor did He restrict certain foods calling them “bad.” He ate and drank what everyone else did.  Our food was good enough for the Son of God. I think that speaks volumes.

The truth is God made food. He ate food. He calls food good and He desires us to call it good too.

Food is a gift. 

Yep, you read that right. Before college I laughed at the thought of food being good, much less a gift.Food has always been fuel to me, something I need to survive. Nothing more and nothing less. But the Word of God tells a different story. Food is a beautiful, priceless gift to be received with thanksgiving and joy. Food is fuel, but it is not just fuel. It is the sole sustenance of our physical bodies. We cannot live without food.

I always yelled at God for making food. How could He do that? Why did He make me dependent on food? Why couldn’t food be optional or at least plain, bland, unimportant? The answer is that God could have made food just fuel. He could have even made us to be self-sustaining. But He didn’t. And you know why? Because He loves to go over the top for us. He loves to lavish grace, mercy and love upon us. One way He does that is through food. He sees food as a gift, a way to show us how much He cares.

It’s also a tangible way to remind us of our dependence on God in all things. We are not self-sustaining on purpose. We cannot survive without God providing food for our bodies. God made us dependent on food for a reason. He wants food, which we have to eat in regular increments, to be a constant reminder of how much we need Him and how much He loves us.

God hasn’t made food to harm us, but to bless us. God didn’t make food to cause division, but to bring people together. God made food and gave it to us as a gift. Food can seem like a burden, but with a changed perspective, food can become a beautiful, even holy, gift from our Father.

My body is good.

This is also something that I could not have said or seen a year ago. Before college, I made do with my body. I didn’t necessarily hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it. I tried to avoid it as much as possible, although being a dancer made that pretty hard. My body could have been described as “fine” or “okay,” but never good.

Now I can look at myself and say “my body is good” and really believe it. My body hasn’t changed at all. My mind has. My perspective on my body has changed. Slowly, my eyes turned from what my body couldn’t do, to what it could do. From what I didn’t like, to what I did. From reasons to be self-conscious, to the God who gave me a spirit of power and love. The Holy Spirit changed my focus. He realigned my vision for my body, with the vision God has for my body. God’s vision for my body is vastly different than my vision was.

God doesn’t care what size and shape we are. He cares what we do with our bodies. Yes, we are to be good stewards of our physical bodies because they house the Holy Spirit and are a gift from the Lord. However, God cares far more about how we love and serve than how we work out and what size we wear. He would rather us sit in His presence than anything else in the world.

So, yes, my body is good and so is yours. Our bodies pump thousands of gallons of blood a day. They get a bite of food through a complex system of compartments and valves. They know which things are welcome in the body and which are to be fought off. Our bodies are incredible. Not only that, our bodies are vessels of hope and joy for everyone we come in contact with. They are how we communicate the love of Christ to the lost and hurting. Our bodies are incredible. Our bodies are good.

We have to choose to believe that God made our bodies and He doesn’t make mistakes. He cannot. It’s against His nature, contrary to His character. That thing about your body that you think must be a mistake, it’s not. It’s good.

God made my body fearfully and wonderfully. My body is good. So is yours.

God knows.

College taught me that God knows. He knows all about my heart and soul. He knows all about my body. Nothing gets past Him. He knows what foods I like and what foods work for me. He knows what my unique body needs to function best.

I thought I knew what my body needed. I thought it needed less of everything. I thought restricting types and quantities of foods would be best, but God has shown me otherwise. My body is the Lord’s. He is in control of it, not me. Any action that attempts otherwise is a proud attempt at playing god.

The Lord is in control of all things, including my body. I may have thoughts, but His purposes for it will stand (Proverbs 19:21). My body, along with everyone else’s, is in His capable hands (Job 12:10). Though I want to believe that I know best, I have seen the folly in that. When I played god over my body, I sent it into a deep, dark pit, but when God has control my feet are placed on solid rock. God is in control and He knows best.


What was bad became good. What was fuel became a symbol of God’s love and grace for me. What was a grudgingly accepted gift became an opportunity for fellowship with others. What I believed was a mistake ridden body became a way to love and serve those around me. What I thought would destroy me, actually remade me. What I thought would be a burden carried alone became something shared among many. What began as my greatest fear in college became my greatest freedom. 

 

If you’d like to learn more about foods role in lives, read “A Meal With Jesus” by Tim Chester. I read it my first semester of college and it changed my world. I have no doubt it’ll change yours too.

 

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! 

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.

To the Girl Who Steps on the Scale…

To the girl who steps on the scale before hitting the gym. Before beating herself up for not being as fit as the girl next to her.

To the girl who steps on the scale before running until her vision goes blurry. Trying to outrun breakfast, lunch, dinner. Outrun anxiety, depression, shame.

To the girl who steps on the scale, hiding her eyes from the result. Hiding from the result because it determines whether she will have a good or bad day.

To the girl who steps on the scale, pleased with the number. Yet unpleased with the image before her.

To the girl who steps on the scale, only to burst into tears. The tears rain down because she’s never enough.

To the girl who steps on the scale, knowing she’s already failed. She’s already failed because she’s fighting an impossible battle.

To the girl who steps on the scale, before leaning over the toilet. She leans over the toilet to empty herself of all of her wrongdoing, her shame, her lack of control.

To the girl who steps on the scale to see if her comfort, her refuge, her pastime is showing on her physique. Is it showing on her hips, her thighs, her stomach? Can the world see?

To the girl who steps on the scale, knowing what she will do afterwards to cover the emotions. She covers them with sweet & salty snacks, with ooey & gooey items. Her shame dipped in chocolate. Her hopelessness and despair the icing on the cake.

To the girl who steps on the scale only to realize she is still falling short of her goal. Her goal of perfection and beauty.

To the girl who steps on the scale to see if the dress, the jeans will fit. Translated: to see if she is a failure or not, in control or not.

To the girl who steps on the scale to give her hope that one day he will give her more than a glance. To see if she is desirable, wanted, noticed.

To the girl who steps on the scale anxiously awaiting her death sentence. Will it be 6 miles, 10 miles, 300 of this or that? What will the punishment be?

To the girl who steps on the scale hoping beyond hope that it will tell her she is loved, chosen, known. Hoping that the screen will tell her she’s more loveable.

To the girl who steps on the scale, praying all the while. Praying that the earth’s gravitational pull on her mass will be less and she will therefore be more. More beautiful. More loved. More worthy.

To the girl who steps on the scale because the voice in her head says she must. She must know the numbers so she can compensate, punish, pay.

To the girl who steps on the scale futilely seeking approval. Approval from her dad, her mom, her boyfriend, her husband. Maybe if she weighed less, they would care more, stick around more, be present and invested in her. Just maybe.

To the girl who steps on the scale waiting to see the numbers. Waiting to know her worth.

To the girl who steps on the scale, I’m crying inside as I watch you. I’m hurting as I see you hurt. The disappointment on your face, the despair in your eyes and the hopelessness in the sagging of your shoulders. It all screams of your brokenness and I know your broken place all too well.

As I listen to the talk of weight gain and loss, I want to shake them, to make them see. See that the scale has no power, beyond what we give it. The scale is not a measure of anything except the gravity between you and earth. It cannot tell how funny or friendly you are. It cannot share how passionate, gifted or determined you are. Those numbers you see they are lies. They are lies from the father of lies himself. They are planted to lead you astray. They are there to make you believe you are not enough for anyone or anything. To make you believe you are too much for everyone and everything. But those lies hold no power in the Light of His Truth. So hold them up. Let His Light shine in the dark corner where you keep those lies. For His Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, cannot, will not overcome His marvelous Light (John 1:5).

To you, you who place your worth in numbers, listen to me. You are valuable. You are more valuable than gold and jewels. You are more valuable than the comfort of the Son of both God and Man. You are more valuable than the life of the King of Kings. You were bought at a terribly, wonderfully, grace-filled cost. And you were bought, ransomed, paid for in full because you are wanted, loved, needed and desired.

To the girl who steps on the scale, please, dear girl, just step off.

 

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…

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I Shall Not Want

Six years old. Lying in bed staring at my wall. Too afraid to fall asleep. What if I have a seizure? What if I lose all control? Can’t breathe or stop my limbs from flailing? What if no one knows and I’m alone in this as I sleep? The “what ifs” start young.

My mom comes in nightly. Novels read. Curly Bear tucked close. Prayers whispered. Lastly, we read Psalm 23 together. Gazing at the framed verse beside my bed we read the old words together…The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever…that was the routine. That was my comfort when I was too afraid to fall asleep.

Ten years later and the Psalm 23 poster and the nightly routine are gone. I’m living in my own little self-imposed hell, not allowing any hope or grace into my hardened heart. The only comfort being certain death and thus lasting reprieve. You’d find me dead before you’d find me whispering Psalm 23. No hope-filled words crossed my lips in those days.

Countless therapy sessions that ending in tears and no visible progress (and I’m sure my therapist questioning why she still saw me) later. Countless prayers cried out on my behalf by more people than I can thank and days lived that simply left me wondering why God kept me alive. I still wanted, wanted for everything, yet didn’t take hold of anything before me.

Twelve years since I first memorized Psalm 23 and I still, I still, don’t have it down.  God is still bringing it up and washing the words over me. The seed He planted, the little lesson of the Psalm 23 seed, is still being grown.

This past summer my therapist brought up Psalm 23, that ever-recurring verse of mine. We recited it aloud together in her office, my safe place. Since then, it’s been my unconscious heartbeat. That one line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Day-in and day-out. Coursing through me, washing over me, reminders all around. I can’t move past that first line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The truth is, if God wants me here, sitting, meditating on this verse, then here I will sit though I know not why. 

One week prior to today. The only instruction, rest. Eno beneath, friend (hey Bess!) across, trees above, the familiar heartbeat all around. God, what would you have me rest on today? One of my old favorite songs came to mind and hasn’t left since.

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“I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad

Just as the words and music wash over me, so does my Shepherd’s voice whispering “I’m your good good Shepherd, you shall not want for anything.” 

I don’t know about any of you, but I have lived and still live out of want, out of a place of lack. My go to is, “I can’t. I don’t have what it takes. I’m not good enough.” I know I am not alone in this. I know I am not the only one who is living out of want and throwing “I’m not good enough” around like candy.

In this first month of college I have slowly been nudged and convicted of my posture. It’s a posture of defeat, of failure, of distrust, discontentment and jealousy. It’s not where God would have me. It’s not where He would have you, either.

College has brought up a slew of things that I thought had been laid to rest. This college month has had it’s fair share of, she has more friends, more invites, more attention, more opportunities, more control, more laughs, thinner or prettier such-and-such.

In this new life I’m living, where I feel so small and unknown, God still whispers and sings over me, “When you taste my goodness, you shall not want. No, you shall not want.” We need not, no it’s a command, we shall not want.

I shall not want for friends, for community, for comfort. I shall not want for attention, for my God’s eyes are always upon me and His ears are always attuned to my voice. I shall not want for opportunities or growth or real conversation. And neither shall you for just as the Father’s eyes are always upon me so are they always upon you.

I spent so much of life, still do, living out the posture of “I must do enough to be (good) enough.” I must work hard enough, workout enough, dance enough, rehearse enough, study enough. Anorexia drove me to “I must weigh little enough to be good enough, to be loved and accepted.” Depression drove me towards, “I must do everything I can to disappear, because my presence is not good enough.” Anxiety drove me to a place of “I must be perfect to be enough.”

No grace. No grace at all. No recognition of Christ’s covering. No acknowledgement of the blood shed for me. Nothing but “must” and “should’ and “have to.” Pressure. Performance. Lies. Comparison. Want. Lack. That was my posture. This is still my posture many days, my posture towards God. But for every “I must” and every thought that makes me feel inadequate and not good enough I can counter with the Truth. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

But, you know what? Just as Jesus sings “You shall not want” over me, He sings it over you too. Just as Jesus covers me, He covers you. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

Challenge for this week:

What are your “I musts” and the thoughts that make you take on a defeated posture? What makes you live out of a posture of want?

What would you insert into this statement? The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for ________. Now repeat that statement as many times as needed this week, until you believe it.

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?