No two people’s process is the same, nor is there a system to follow that will work for everyone. This is not a “one-size-fits-all” type pos, but rather a peek into my personal experience and what I learned. I hope this helps point someone in the right direction and on the road to recovery. Take these thoughts as spring-boards into the next phase of your process!
There were 3 main areas where I received healing, which resulted in the eating disorder become a thing of the past.
1. Inner (Heart Issues)
There are many different reasons that may trigger someone into an eating disorder of any type (anorexia, bulimia, OCD type disorders)–control, wounds of the heart, performance issues, and more. But the reason is what is often most overlooked by people who are seeking help for an eating disorder. They may truly want to stop the destructive behavior patterns, but are attacking the symptoms and not the real reason (or root) of the problem. And this is not something that can be done alone, usually. Because remember that loudest voice in your head? It’s YOU and you are so loud it is hard to hear any truth at all! and technically, it really isn’t just you. We all, whether you have a relationship with God or not, have an enemy who the Bible says is out to “steal, kill, and destroy” us (John 10:10). He is the one feeding you the lies.
It will probably take, as it did for me, allowing other people into this process and being open with them about where I was at and what I was thinking. You know you have a bad counselor or friend (and I didn’t say well–meaning! I’m sure they have great hearts and intentions!) when…
You are advised to “just start eating again.” (wow, that was brilliant! I never thought of that! Yes you do need to eat so you don’t die, but let’s go about it a bit differently than this!)
You are told “come on, you are not fat. Can’t you see?” (again, very kind and well meaning friends, but attacking the symptom, not the root)
I had many people along the way try to help me with statements like these and I crashed and burned every time. I would do better for awhile and then fail again, only to thrust me deeper into depression and discouragement, to the point I tried to kill myself several times.
That was until I met someone who got to the heart…my husband Nathan. He loved me with an unconditional love that began to reveal my root issue—performance. Somehow along the course of my life, whether this was reality or simply my perception of reality, I began to believe a lie that I would never be loved unless I was perfect. I had to perform a certain way, look a certain way, and never, ever, ever fail. I HATED failure. I couldn’t handle losing and if I did, my punishment was to withhold food from myself for days on end. My wonderful husband’s love for me was based in something that had nothing to do with me at all–it was completely separate from my performance. He loved me because I was a child of God and that alone gave me value and worth–not the great things that I did for him or others.
This love was not the completion of the story however, it was really just the beginning. Because remember, it’s a process! So the unveiling of my performance issues led me to look deeper into how to get rid of these performance-based thoughts. Thus began another phase of my journey. A good friend took me through a tool by Neil Anderson called The Steps to Freedom. This was an incredible experience that brought much freedom. It is best to have a mentor walk you through this! But there was more.
We are kind of like onions. God deals with the outermost layer because that’s all we can handle at the time. And then He goes to the next layer and the next until He comes to the core. So years later, during which the Lord continued to peel away layers, He lead me to something called Restoring the Foundations, an incredible ministry that helps people of all ages get true and lasting freedom from life’s toughest hurts.
When I went, I really didn’t even think I was “that bad” anymore. However, I was still having symptoms (anger, control, etc.) that alerted me that things were still not dealt with in my heart. So I went and it was life-changing! This was such a breakthrough time for me and my struggle is no longer a struggle. However, I still continue to do certain things to make sure my heart contines believing truth and not lies (see number 3).
This next piece of my healing is one that can not be overlooked for it too changed my life. Because of this piece, I was able to get my life back, get pregnant 4 times in 5 years and have strength that I may not have otherwise gained back. An eating disorder depletes your body of vital nutrients and your body will go into starvation mode and hold on to whatever it can to create some sort of balance. This built-in mechanism of creating a balance when things are disrupted is called “homeostasis.” It’s an amazing design we all have that is almost a default mode of our body. When we get out of balance, it WILL regain balance, in whatever way it has to. For me, in order to regain balance from all the nutrients I had depleted, my body would pull nutrients from organs, muscles and everywhere else to insure it had enough to fuel my normal, daily functions.
When I met Nathan towards the end of my first semester of college, I was having major issues physically due to my body trying to regain balance. You would think food would be the answer. Not so…
Part way through my senior year of High School I decided I better start eating again to regain some lost muscle or I’d never get a college scholarship. I had gone from about 120 lbs. down to around 85-90 lbs. So by sheer determination, I gained muscle back and miraculously ended up getting a scholarship to play Division 1 soccer at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.
I had been eating properly for nearly a year. I was very health conscious, as you can imagine, but would also splurge on the occasional college freshmen staples of pizza and icecream from the lunchroom. I never drank sodas (because they weren’t allowed on our team) and I never ate fast food. So you would think I would be physically healthy, right? Wrong! For these reasons…
First off, our food is nutritionally void in most cases. Even where it says 50% of Vitamin C or 25% D on a label, it is almost always synthetic. The food, during processing, has been stripped of it’s naturally occuring vitamins, and then they add synthetic ones back in. The problem is that your body does not recognize synthetic vitamins as real, but rather as foreign objects to be attacked and dispelled. Much of what we eat is processed. I would eat fruits and veggies, but as a college kid, I am sure I was not getting enough.
Plus our workouts were quite brutal. We had 6am workouts, practice after school and then games and road trips. This rigorous schedule, intense and demanding practices, and nutritionally depleted food left me with 2 big problems.
I would regularly pass out during runs or in the middle of practice. I would go so hard that I would black out and hit the ground as I crossed the finish line (because remember I was still performance based and could not handle losing–even though I started eating again, I had not even touched any heart issues with this disorder). Secondly, I would double over in pain if I went 30 minutes past a meal time. It was as if my body was going in “lock-down” and started to pull everything out of me to get fed. When I would have one of these episodes, which was several times a week, the pain would usually not subside till I fell asleep that night. So imagine trying to maintain a Division I soccer lifestyle with unbearable side and stomach pain constantly. It definitely interefered, to say in the least.
Then I met Nathan! His family had recently been through an incredible experience. His brother Andrew had 38 tumors in the whites of his eyes and they fought it off naturally with Shaklee supplements and going to Mexico once a year for nutrient therapy for 10 days. When I met Nathan, Andrew’s cancer had completely disappeared!
So Nathan suggested I give Shaklee a try. I was very skeptical that anything would help, because pain had been my closest companion for 4 years. I couldn’t even remember life without it. But I was willing to give it a try.
After 3 months of the basic nutrition program, I remember waking up one day and jumping out of bed. My roommate asked me what was wrong. And I said, “Nothing! It’s gone! The pain is gone!” I hadn’t passed out or been doubled-over in pain for awhile, I just hadn’t noticed! And the pain is gone to this day.
It became obvious to me at that point that there really is something to feeding the body good nutrients that it needs and it will heal itself. I was so impacted that I decided to tell others about Shaklee because I wanted to see other people’s lives changed. My teammates even saw a change in me physically! It was a very exciting time for me!
I encourage anyone who is currently struggling with an eating disorder or who is in that process of rebuilding from one, to get on a great supplement program. It will aid your body in rebuilding itself, protect you from further damage, and it may just give you your life back. When I was in the heart of my struggle, I believe that if I had something like Shaklee, it would have helped me alot. I was very health conscious even then and I know the shakes that are now a part of my daily routine would have given me some peace of mind that I was feeding my body something good without tons of calories.
This last component is one that is definitely still in process, but light years ahead of where I used to be.
Most eating disorders start with a hurtful experience. Someone says something to you, acts a certain way, or maybe acts a certain way to you all the time! But most eating disorder continue because of believing lies that we adopt about ourselves, others, and how the world runs. These lies seem like the truth to us…so much so that we oftentimes will not be able to identify them without the help of someone else.
The key to this component of my healing was to realize this very important truth: You will always receive what you believe. It is a law! It is part of the law of sowing and reaping. If you claim something, declare it, believe it, or say it over and over (whether out loud or in your head) you WILL receive that very thing because that is what you are believing and expecting. Sow a thought, reap a behavior.
It’s not enough to identify the lies. Once the lie is identified, it must be done away with. The way you get rid of it is 2-fold. First, repent of believing it. I’m not saying it wasn’t founded in something that feel is justified (maybe someone hurt you, etc.), but you (I) still made the choice to believe it–consciously or unconsciously. Tell God you are sorry for agreeing with something that the enemy says is true. Secondly, you have to form a new belief to replace that old lie (which was your truth and reality!). If you do not do this step, in a hard moment, you will always default to what you are accustomed to telling yourself and it will be a lie! So write out, with someone’s help, some new true beliefs and begin saying them OUT LOUD for 30 days. This will renew your mind and help you begin to see things differently. It will break the hold those lies have on you.
Again, this is a process. I still look at my cards where I have my new beliefs and choose to say them out loud so that the enemy can not have a foothold. He is always looking for ways to get you to stumble, so stand strong and take action against him.
These are three things that helped me. But please remember, this is not a 1-2-3 follow this plan and you will get better. Everyone’s process is so different because it is all about the journey and relationship you are on with God. He wants to show up personally and individually for you so it may look different for you. But these may be some good starting points for you. Take the first step today of saying you are willing to begin the journey towards complete healing and freedom, and He will start opening unique doors just for you.