I am so excited about this next session with a wonderful lady who contacted me out of the blue a month ago. I love Alison's transparency, humility, and love for The Lord seen clearly through her relentless battle against sin.
Where do you live? Tennessee
1: What are your earliest negative memories of food? Did any event trigger or develop them?
My earliest negative memories are in the 5th grade when I used not eating to gain control. When I was 10, I realized that by eating less I could lose weight, and I already craved to be thinner like the "popular" girls. I was never overweight as a child, but I was on the heavier side of average and very aware of my weight and appearance. In 5th grade, my parents got divorced and it was also the same year that I went to a private school where I had trouble making friends and fitting in. The birth of my struggle with food started this year as I used food to feel in control of my circumstances and hoped to gain acceptance from peers.
2: When you tried to "manage" your sin with food, what did you do? Where did you seek comfort or control?
I have struggled with an eating disorder for 16 years (I am 26 now) and have been on both extremes of the scale. In middle, high school, and part of college/grad school I struggled primarily with anorexia and restricting my food intake to maintain a low weight and feel in control of my life. However, I started bingeing in high school and it became full blown in college when I engaged in the partying lifestyle. Food became my comfort and provided the "high" I craved and subsequent numbness to my thoughts and emotions. Of course, I felt guilty and shameful after a binge, but the momentary high kept me addicted to the destructive cycle. I would go back and forth between restricting and eating super healthy during the day only to back slide and binge at night. It was (and is) such a private prison, and as much as I wanted to break the cycle, I felt hopeless and out of control.
3: How has the church affected your attempts to "put to death the desires of the flesh" (Romans 8:13)?
When I was a sophomore in college, God rescued me and I became a Christian by His grace. My relationship with God has greatly helped me to put to death the desires of my flesh, especially when it came to drinking and partying in college. However, I still struggle with food on a daily basis and have yet to put to death my sinful desires. I haven't fully opened up to the church body and shared my struggles with other believers, which hinders the recovery process. I believe that God can instantly cure me of this disorder, but I also believe that He wants me to take the necessary steps to read Scripture, pray, and seek out a community of believers to be open with. It is so much easier said than done.
4: Have you found confession to other believers difficult? How have they typically responded to your struggles with food?
Yes, I am a private person and it takes me some time to open up to others. I have confessed to other believers but they are primarily my family and very close friends (most who also share similar struggles). I want to get to the point one day where I can be completely open and honest with other believers and ask for prayer and support. At the same time, I fear rejection and that they will judge me for my struggles with overeating or not understand it.
5: How has God used this weakness in your heart to grow you in maturity? ("And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28)
God has used this thorn in my flesh to weave this struggle into the beautiful tapestry He is creating for me. Through my years of restricting, binging, and wrestling with food (especially since I've become a Christian), I have grown in my faith, learned to rely on the power of Scripture and prayer more, and come to accept that I am weak and powerless without Him. I wouldn't wish this struggle on anyone, but it has taught me to persevere every day and reach out to God and others during the dark times. God has also used me to encourage others who share the same struggles.
6: What aspect of eating has historically been the biggest hurdle for you? Have you found a way to guard against it (Proverbs 4:23)?
At this point in my life, overeating/bingeing has been my biggest hurdle. I have yet to find a solution to guard against it and believe that I will come to terms with it in God's timing. However, things like praying, being thankful for what I'm eating, reading the Bible, reading Christian books (Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst is one of my favorites), asking others for help, and taking it one day at a time have helped me.
7: What one observation would you share with other believers with respect to looking out for their weaker sisters in this area (Romans 14:21)?
The one observation I would share with other believers with respect to looking out for their weaker sisters in this area is to not comment on their weight/appearance. For example, don't say "You look great! Have you lost weight?" if a sister in Christ is struggling with an eating disorder and also don't say a comment such as "You look like you could lose a few pounds" if a Christian sister has put on some weight. These comments are unnecessary and triggering, and I can assure you that a sister who is struggling with undereating or overeating is very aware of her body and does not need comments from others about her weight and appearance. It is much better to focus on her inner beauty and the characteristics that make her beautiful in Christ's eyes.
8: What practical advice would you give to another believer struggling with an eating disorder?
I would say to never give up, no matter how hard it may be right now or how thick the darkness. Rely on God and let His light shine into you as you bask in His everlasting love. Truly repent of your sin (because let's be real: gluttony is sin and using food to restrict/overeat is a form of idolatry since we are not putting God first and foremost) and ask God to transform your heart and mind. Don't be afraid to reach out to others, whether it is a family member, close friend, or Christian mentor. Be diligent in reading the Word and praying daily. Trust that He is with you every step of the way, and when you can no longer walk, He will carry You as you seek to glorify Him in everything you do.