For eating disorder awareness week, I wanted to share a snapshot of my journey of overcoming anorexia. I spent 18 years in bondage to food, control, and what other people thought of me- and despite being consistently in secular treatment, I saw little, to no progress. Until I brought God into the healing process, I never saw any lasting freedom. I spent those 18 years being told by professionals that even if my struggles with food became easier, that I would still always struggle with the disorder to some degree. At the time, it was hard to believe otherwise.
Whether you love someone with an eating disorder, or you’re a person struggling, these 4 aspects are beneficial to consider on the healing journey.
1. It’s about more than just food and the physical body.
From the surface, eating disorders look like the problem is mostly food-related. Don’t get me wrong; food and a poor or distorted self-image have its place with eating disorders. However, if you think that’s the only or main part of the struggle, you are missing out on healing the root causes and issues. It took me almost 2 decades to realize that anorexia was more than a desire to be thin. For me, it stemmed from unresolved trauma from my childhood. Restricting my eating gave me a sense of control over my life and body, and being small helped me to feel I could stay safe and hidden. Whether it’s trauma, hurt, or a lie you are believing, not addressing the root can keep you stuck in the eating disorder.
2. Freedom goes deeper than just fixing the behaviors.
If you get help for only the behaviors of an eating disorder and neglect to heal the roots, a behavior will grow again from that root. It may continue to be the cycle of struggling with an eating disorder, or it could resurface as a new issue or addiction. There was, of course, accountability that was put in place with food for me to become physically healthy, but the healing from the disorder came when I started asking God about how He saw me. The more I heard His truth and spoke those truths out loud, it changed me from the inside out. I didn’t need what I felt the eating disorder gave me when I developed a truly loving and safe relationship with God. Facing the painful roots from the past can be overwhelming, and even feel impossible at times. Addressing the root is never easy, but it is a necessary step. The freedom you focus on in the inside will flow out to freedom from the behaviors.
3. To overcome, you need a support team.
On my road to healing, a good friend introduced me to the idea of “Team Lindsay”. She wanted me to form a group of friends and family to be a support system and encouragement to me. This served as a group of “safe people” in my life that I could trust and let into my messy moments, but also people who loved me enough to not let me stay in my struggles and mess. Along with these safe family and friends, it is also extremely important to enlist appropriate professionals, such as counselors or doctors. Having friends and family, spiritual mentors, and trained professionals on your team give you the support and wisdom to help navigate healing for your mind, body, and soul.
4. Healing and freedom from an eating disorder takes time, and there are no quick fixes.
Healing is a process and journey, not an instant experience. When I tried to conquer the eating disorder in my own strength and understanding, it never lasted. I could only do recovery in my strength for so long before I would give in and run right back to the struggle. But when I, over time, allowed God to root out the pain and damage of the past and grow me up in His truth and love, His presence brought me true and lasting freedom. Don’t give up prematurely if it’s taking longer than you had hoped, or if the journey looks different than you expect. It was through the process that God freed me, and if you let Him, He’ll do it for you too.
You are never beyond hope. Philippians 1:6 tells us that God, who began a good work in us, will bring it to completion. God is not going to give up on us, and we must choose to not give up on us or view ourselves as hopeless either. Even on the hardest of days, you must not let go of that. As our Founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, says, “Whatever the struggle is, Jesus is the answer.” I truly believe that no struggle can’t be overcome by the power of Jesus, including eating disorders.
Mercy Multiplied offers a free-of-charge residential counseling program that helps young women ages 13-32 break free from life-controlling issues and situations. If you are struggling and want to learn more, call us at (615) 831-6987 or visit our website at MercyMultiplied.com.