- A quick note on these posts - Even though I've written about my sin / idols and my eating disorder many times before on this blog, it seems that this reality was something of a revelation to some of you. I want to clarify that this WAS NOT the first time I've openly confessed this weakness. Also, I didn't post these because I'm currently going through any kind of particularly difficult or dark period with food. Actually, things have been better now then ever before. Naturally I still battle my feelings and thoughts but God has showered me with grace in this area of my life. No, I'm writing this in response to some emails I received from women asking questions about how to get out of this addiction. Plus, I want my life to be transparent before you, so that you'll know my weaknesses and failings. In that knowledge, I hope you will help me struggle well as I hope to help you, dear friends.
- Waiting for Skinny -
Maybe you were wondering about the title? It kind of came on me the other week while I was driving to work. I was meditating on God's incredible redeeming love and it struck me all of a sudden: There is no such thing as "Skinny."
O.k., obviously there are thin people, healthy people, sickly stick-like people, obese people--there are A LOT of sizes out there. So when I say that "skinny" doesn't exist, I don't mean there is no category for people on the smaller end of the waistline spectrum. No, I mean the idea of skinny, this perfect size where you look great and feel great and everything is just... well... amazing. That, friends, does not exist. What I'm telling you is that I've basically spent at least 5 of the past 8 years waiting, striving, and brutally struggling daily to become a be-sparkled unicorn.
Skinny can't exist because it is an ideal and holds within it a promise for things it couldn't possibly possess: beauty, acceptance, and love. Since when does size = love?! And beauty? Let's be honest, there are some pretty awkward-looking thin chicks out there who better resemble an anemic toad than a Kardashian (Yes, an unfortunate aspect of my job means I have to keep up with celebrities). So why did I associate skinny with beauty? Because on the most basic level I was horribly deceived.
There was this time a few years ago when I went to Starbucks with Jusje to get a birthday cake cake-pop. They had just launched the cake-pops line and I was SO EXCITED to try one. There it was, resting behind the pristine glass, adorned with pearl sprinkles and looking delicious. I was threw the roof. And then I tasted the nasty thing. It. Was. A. Huge. Mistake. That pop was gross: too sweet, nasty flavor, pasty like toothpaste mixed with play-dough. Yuck :P
But that's my point. It doesn't take long to learn that appearance doesn't equate reality. Or worth for that matter. All this waiting to be Skinny is so pointless that now the idea makes me a bit angry. I'm so thankful God revealed the lie I believed for most of my life and now daily speaks this truth to me:
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7
And come on, let's be fair, this verse should (on some level) be a little discouraging initially since my heart looks like a leprous goblin with a sinus infection compared to my body. Not that I'm super hot, but rather my heart is super ugly. Praise God it won't stay that way forever!
-Practical Tools of Grace to Fight Eating Disorders-
1: A daily reality check.
1 Corinthians 6:12–13 says, “‘I am allowed to do all things,’ but not all things are good for me to do. ‘I am allowed to do all things,’ but I will not let anything make me its slave. ‘Food is for the stomach, and the stomach for food,’ but God will destroy them both.”
This is a great thing to ponder for me since this sin with my body obsesses over (even "worships") something temporary. I wasn't made to be "just a body." I was made to reflect the glory of God and enjoy his goodness, greatness, and beauty. How can I do that when all I look at and think about is me, me, me? Obvious answer: I can't.
But GOD . . .
By releasing my grip on this idol and giving him control, God will absolutely bring restoration. He will call me by a new name (Isaiah 62:2), turn my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11), restore the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25), and put a new song in my mouth (Psalm 40:3).
2: The Ten Minute Wait
When temptation to throw up a meal is almost unbearable, I enact my 10 minute wait on the Lord rule. It goes like this:
Phase 1: "God, I feel like I have no other option but to throw up, but I know that's a lie, since there's no temptation you've presented to me beyond my ability to bare (1 Cor. 10:13). I believe you're right, but it doesn't feel that way now. So help me with my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)"
Then I say to myself, "Self, you're right, it FEELS as though I have to throw up, but I'm going to wait 10 minutes for God to remove that feeling."
When 10 minutes are up I repeat this process.
I know you might be thinking, "that's pointless! If God didn't change you're heart in 10 minutes in answer to your prayer, why ask again?" Well, firstly, because it's easier for me to trust him 10 minutes at a time. I don't feel overwhelmed by the prospect of feeling "unacceptable and worthless" if it's only for a short 10 minutes. Then if he hasn't calmed the storm, I wait for another 10. I've grown (by His grace) to be faithful in short increments, and when they are placed side by side, they might actually make the distance.
Phase 2: DISTRACTION! Oh you glorious tool, you! I can clean the house, do laundry, do almost anything that's physical, all to keep my mind away from my feeling of worthlessness and the "inescapable" need to purge. Usually if I can hold off for 45 minutes, the heavy feeling from the meal will have subsided and I have a much easier time moving on.
This process works about 75% of the time. But there are still days when even this doesn't help. (Yes, I'm looking at you horrible Thanksgiving, and Easter, and Christmas, and 4th of July, and Labor Day meals). That's largely because I'm not perfect. I know, you're shocked and I've singlehandedly dismantled your reality. Seriously, I'm not. I'm going to fall over and over again. But I'm not seeking MY perfection anymore, but Christ's. There's grace for even me! What a thought!
3: A bit of fence making in an attempt at preventative wisdom.
I mentioned previously my safe foods and unsafe foods, so I won't go into this in much depth. I know how weak I am so I try and protect myself by steering clear from foods that habitually cause me to stumble. This means two things in daily living:
One: Always be prepared before a meal / event with a plan (I'll eat this. I'll stay away from that). Many, many times this means bringing my own food to social events. It's strange and a little embarrassing but well worth it. I'll take a brother or sister "openly" struggling against sin any day over an outwardly "perfect" believer who keeps the battle inside hidden away. Please, we all struggle with different expressions of sine, but we all sin. Let's not confuse ourselves by mincing words.
Two: Asking for a spotter. I'm not always great at telling myself no, so it helps when Justin is there to guide me away from poor decisions or tell me "it's really ok" when I start getting all starved-minded.
4:Tums. Bulimia screws up your teeth, so tums help alleviate some of the damage. They are filled with calcium and are great for you regardless, so where's the downside?
5: Raisins. Iron deficiency is a common problem with anorexics and bulimics. I eat a box daily, not so that I can "go on sinning so that grace may increase" but because I am trying to shore up in all possible ways against further bodily damage from past sin and protecting incase of future sin. I feel similarly about wearing seat belts. I'm not going to do any stunt driving or drag racing, but I still wear my seatbelt for safety.
6: LOTS OF WATER. I'm not brilliant at this one, but it's very important. Bulimia causes dehydration so drinking lots of H2O is very important. Besides, it makes you feel better anyway.
7: No scales. I threw out our scales a while back because I couldn't be trustworthy with it. Although we have one again now,it's primarily for my husband and not me. I use it very, very sparingly. I know how dangerous it is, so I prefer and recommend to others to just stay away from this beast all together.
8: Confession and transparency. These are two of the most important things you can do to overcome any sin, not just EDs. Find a close friend (preferably a fellow Christian) and keep them updated weekly on how you're doing. Alert them right away when you're having a bad week. Justin has been a priceless asset to me in this. When sin has me by the throat, I go to him and he prays with me, looks out for me with extra care, and keeps me far away from situations that might cause me to relapse.
9: Visuals. I have a journal where I've taken many of my favorite versus and illustrated them in photoshop or on my iphone. This is a way for me to further saturate my mind with the scriptures and keep my heart focused on the Lord.
10: Consistent menus: Nearly every day, I eat the exact same thing: a couple of lattes, a greek yogurt, raisins, 2 cliff bars, an apple, and whatever Justin made for dinner. Routine takes my brain out of the equation. Without my brain, there's no "maybe I shouldn't eat that" or "maybe I should eat a bunch of cake for lunch." It's just the same, same, same, same thing. I know this sounds boring. The fact is, it is boring, but in my case, boring is a mercy. Boring means I can take the emotion out of eating. Eating can be yet another important part of my day that is predetermined for God's glory and my best good without the need for me to do much of anything. When I'm this scheduled, I don't feel the need to worry about calories or fatness. I can rest in God's sovereignty.
-Closing Letter to the Struggling-
You have probably been wanting to talk to someone about this for a while. I know you have because I wanted to. But it's too shaming, right? It's embarrassing that food would be our sin and not something more "important." It's distressing that we have to admit an inner ugliness that others might never see otherwise (PST, that's a lie, by the way. They see it, but many don't know what it is or how to confront us about it).
Despite the feelings of control you feel in manipulating food and your body, you feel tired. Exhausted, in fact. And oh so alone. You see your self, your controlled starvation, your bouts of bingeing, your restless diets, and know that all of it really just = worthless. You feel all of these things but you don’t know how to fix it. That's because on some level you're right. You are worthless. That's true. And you can't fix it. But you were bought, you were washed, and now your worth is no longer based on you but on Jesus. He is infinitely just, infinitely perfect, infinitely valuable. He is the author and sustainer of all things (col 1:17).
Please, find some encouragement, sweet friend. Think about how long the eating disorder has been a part of your life. A year? Two years? A decade? A long time, regardless. Let me remind you that recovery will take a while too. More than a year. Perhaps many years. Perhaps forever. But our hope isn't in our recovery over addiction. No our hope is in Christ and Christ alone. As the hymn so aptly says, "All other ground is sinking sand."
You can always talk to me, email, text, call as well. Even if I don't know you, that's o.k. by me. I'd be more than happy to talk, listen, cry and pray with you anytime. Seriously. Here's my google number: 1 940 536 3348
Please, never forget how infinitely valuable you are. Not because of you, but because of Him.
For the glory of His beautiful name,
- Suggested Resources -
Love to Eat. Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Uncommon Vessles by Elyse Fitzpatrick