Eating Disorders: A Slow Suicide Part 1
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Eating Disorders: A Slow Suicide Part 1

You've joined the gym and started that diet, but you and your body aren't friends. Your scale hates you because the numbers aren't going your way. How did you get the muffin top and saddle bags to go away? People try desperately to get the extra weight off through extreme diets, mega exercise, weight loss shakes, fasting. Whoa! That last one is scary. Fasting.  I'm not referring to the spiritual discipline of fasting, either. This reminds me of a particular "weight loss" method when I was rummaging through storage putting away Christmas decorations. I found a black portfolio from 1982. Inside were black and white photos of me when I went to modelling school. When I looked at them, I was reminded of two things: anorexia and God's miraculous healing from a deadly eating disorder. What starts out as an innocent quick weight loss effort-fasting-can go seriously wrong.

Char's Model Pic 1When I was a teen, I was fed up with derogatory remarks about my weight or being called "ugly". I was a bit chunky at 125 pounds, 5'1" and 16 years old, but I wasn't fat. In fact, I had a fair amount of muscle from running track, playing basketball, and twirling baton. Negative messages came from a lot of people at home and school. It also wasn't helpful that my family life was dysfunctional. I won't share details because I love and respect my family; however, I decided to skip meals and cut my calorie intake down to dangerous levels. By the time I had entered college, I was only consuming around 500 calories on most days. Sometimes I only took in 300 calories. When I felt the effects of starvation, I binged. Sometimes I used laxatives when I "over ate".  My weight plummeted to 86 pounds. To keep my story to blog length, my fiance' convinced me I was slowly killing myself.

I did some research on anorexia and discovered the foundation of his concerns. We were involved in a traveling church orchestra at that time. Each road trip someone from our group would give a devotional message. My turn came up. Although I didn't know Christ at the time, but believed I was a Christian, there was serious conviction of my own sin issue. I saw a Bible passage doing the "Bible Roulette" method of Scripture reading and found this passage: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV. I shared this passage with a tiny group at the host church as a special musical group. I confessed to everyone there that I was anorexic and asked them to pray for me.They circled around me and prayed for my healing. Since then, my weight has never gone below 100 pounds. Over the course of several months, my calorie intake improved to normal levels and my mindset about my body slowly changed. There were times I reverted back to starving myself, but I was unable to continue losing weight. Even more importantly, the desire to continue this practice slowly disappeared. God had healed me. What started out as an innocent weight loss effort could have taken my life. In the model photos I weighed 100 pounds. These were taken shortly after God healed me. Snapshots of me during anorexia make it difficult to see the bones sticking out.through the baggy clothing. I had become extremely bony.

Anorexia and bulimia are deadly eating disorders. They begin with a "harmless" weight loss effort. The calorie numbers and the scale numbers become an obsession over time. As the fat melts away, important nutrients are also deleted from the diet. Exercise frequency and duration increase to ridiculous levels.The misguided individual begins to feel good about the weight loss. But for someone prone to these disorders, that is not enough. It's at this point when most people would stop, the anorexia begins to distort the mental image of one's body. More calories are deleted, sleep is manipulated, and obsession with the numbers becomes a slave-driver. Fat levels become too low to maintain body temperatures.Muscle begins to fuel the body since there aren't enough calories from food to burn.

Occasionally, the anorexic will binge eat; it is the body's effort to survive. Some anorexics go to greater lengths to lose weight by using diuretics, laxatives, or vomiting. Not all people with bulimia are anorexic, though. Usually in latter stages, the victim is convinced he or she is fat still, the total opposite of reality. Women with this disorder stop having periods. Soft downy hair covers the body to insulate because there isn't enough fat to keep the person warm. Hair loss, brittle nails, and tooth decay are very common symptoms.The belly protrudes in spite of efforts to flatten the belly. This person's body is forced into survival as if being put into a starvation situation. Without intervention, the magnesium and potassium levels are too low for survival. This person could eventually die of cardiac arrest. Many do.

There are several factors behind this reverse addiction. People most prone to anorexia:

  • Perfectionists, type A driven personalities
  • Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Rape, incest, and molestation victims
  • Domestic violence survivors
  • Those who are in the public eye, where there are expectations to appear or behave idealistically, i.e. pastor's kids, performers, gymnasts, cheerleaders, dancers, musicians, actors,and models.
  • Those who have been overweight and picked on severely as children.
  • More men and women in mid-life are becoming anorexic due to the physical changes associated with mid-life and social pressures on people of this age group

One Christian counselor told me that no one is cured of eating disorders, but she affirmed to me that I was miraculously healed. Not everyone is. I believe God used that healing to reveal Himself to me, along with other instances, leading to my salvation later. Currently, I take in around 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day, but I don't track calories obsessively anymore. I don't let myself drop below 110, although my immune system, when on high alert, has kicked up my calorie burn dropping my weight to 107. That's rare, though. I usually only weigh myself once a week. My mental attitude about myself is healthier because my value is in who God created me to be. Not everyone receives miraculous healing, but for most anorexics and bulimics, "healing" usually comes through intense counseling coupled with psychotherapy. Even then they learn to live with and manage this disorder because relapses are common. Either way, intervention is necessary.

I share this with you to help you or someone you know. That's why I wrote "The Secret to Flat Abs" with the Photoshop-ed model in time lapse photography and "A Story Behind Every Body". Your value is not in your weight nor your appearance, rather who God created you to be. I promote a healthy lifestyle change instead of only focusing on weight loss. I discourage people from using weight loss supplements, fad diets, and other gimmicks. If you can see your bones through your clothes and/or consume less than 1,000 calories a day, seek help now! You can find a local clinical counselor through your pastor or your local county mental health agency. There is also a hotline available through the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237.

Parents, be careful about what you tell your children about their appearance and weight. Pre-teens and teens are very self-conscious about themselves. They need love, affirmation of their value, and simply having healthy food around the house with fun physical outlets for exercise. Pushing them to perfection could lead to a disaster. If your teen is having trouble with self-image and weight, talk to your doctor about a healthy eating and activity plan for them to follow. May God bless you.


Note: The picture with the purple shirt and jeans I weighed 115, the picture above with the peach sweater 113. I own all of the pictures in this post. None of them may be used for any other purpose without my express written permission. The picture above was taken by Wendy Swenson Photography.


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