Overcoming Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are a very real, and unfortunately common, problem. It is ironic to think that while many people in third- world countries are malnourished because of a lack of food availability, many people in America (young women especially) suffer from malnutrition because of a fear: the fear of gaining weight.
What are Eating Disorders?
An eating disorder can be any type of condition in which the person who has it entertains an unhealthy and inaccurate view of food. This can translate into binge eating, emotional eating, overeating in general, or not eating enough because of a fear.
There is a sadly large percentage of people who think that they are too heavy and have a very real, very strong, very controlling fear of gaining weight. Many of these people are very thin because of this fear and how it controls them. Even though many (or most… or all?) of them are suffering from undernourishment, they think that they are still too “fat” and refuse to eat enough to be healthy, in fear of gaining more weight.
In this article, we will be talking specifically about the type of eating disorder in which the primary result is under eating and undernourishment. When I say “eating disorder”, this is what I am referring to.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are usually caused by an emotional or mental state in which the person believes that they are too heavy and are terrified of gaining weight. This may have stemmed from the teenage girl being influenced by media and the culture to the point that she believes boys won’t be attracted to her unless she is skinny; the young woman being influenced by the memory of an adult who told her as a child that she was fat; the wife whose husband expects her to be as thin as possible; the mom who doesn’t like her body after having children; the lady who has gained a few pounds after menopause and doesn’t enjoy her body anymore; or a host of other emotional/mental factors that lead to a person deeply believing that they are not beautiful or good enough at their current weight (regardless of how thin they may be).
What Social, Emotional, and Health Problems do Eating Disorders Cause?
The woman (or man) with an eating disorder has a very difficult time enjoying social situations. She is so afraid of eating too many calories, or the wrong kind of food, that she tends to avoid dinners and gatherings and any other type of event where food is present (which in America, is pretty much every event!)
She may be afraid of being looked down on for not joining in, but is even more afraid of eating, so she stays away all together.
This obviously leads to emotional stress and anxiety, as she is not able to enjoy relationships in a normal, healthy way.
She is also suffering already from emotional distress by believing that she is not enough. That her body is imperfect and broken. That she will only be beautiful and acceptable if she is skinny (which to her, doesn’t usually look like skinny because of the mind’s false perception).
Besides all of this, eating disorders cause undernourishment. We need vitamins and minerals in order heal and grow and stay healthy.
There is no way the body can function properly without food! Our nutrients come from food. All of our body’s systems are fueled by calories. When calories are not there, the systems break down.
How Can a Person Overcome Eating Disorders?
In order to overcome an eating disorder, the person who has it must first address the root cause. This will take some serious work, and getting help is always important! Having friends and family who can and will encourage her and help her, in addition to working with a professional if necessary, will be key to success.
She will also have to change her beliefs and mindset drastically. Anyone who is trying to overcome an eating disorder absolutely must change her thinking; the same thoughts will yield the same results. New thoughts will yield new results.
(For some more insights on how to get a bigger purpose and change thinking, check out this article!)
It is important to accept that we are not “victims” to the mindset that is causing us to make poor choices and decisions. We are not victims! We have control over our own mind like no one else! God has given us extremely strong and intricate brains, and Has given us the ability to control them.
Unfortunately, based on things we choose to believe (whether consciously or unconsciously), we start to build pathways in our brains that become stronger and stronger as they are more frequently traveled. This is how addictions happen. And this is why we absolutely must change our thinking if we want to change our behavior!
So, in order to overcome an eating disorder, it is important to change our thinking by choosing to believe truth (I am beautiful just the way God made me; I am not perfect on my own, but in Him I am enough no matter what anyone else says; what other people say is not necessarily true and should always be measured against what God says; my body needs food and nourishment to function the way God created it to function; etc.).
We start re-routing those mental pathways by refusing to travel them anymore, and starting to build those new pathways of truth by choosing to believe truth… even when we don’t actually believe it yet! It is powerful!
A Mistake to Avoid When Overcoming an Eating Disorder
It can be really easy for someone coming out of an eating disorder to fall into the trap of eating absolutely whatever they want, whenever they want it. This is not the solution and should be carefully guarded against!
While it is definitely better for a starved person to eat cookies than nothing at all, it is important to focus on getting that vital nutrition that the body has been missing for so long! Instead of eating anything anytime and gaining weight without actually feeding the body, the focus needs to be on feeding the body as many nutrients and real food as possible. (Read this post to learn about why real food is so important!)
Having no self-control when trying to overcome an eating disorder can easily lead to intense frustration if weight is gained too fast. It can also lead to an eating disorder on the opposite end of the spectrum. Or it can lead to obesity and other health problems.
So, rather than just giving in to every impulse and throwing all inhibitions out the window, the focus needs to be on healing the mind and the body. When the goal is to heal - and we work to change our thinking and build new, positive, healthy thought patterns - then we can safely and effectively overcome eating disorders!
For more information on overcoming eating disorders, check out Food, Faith, Fitness. This website is a good resource from someone who has overcome an eating disorder herself. Plus, Taylor is a really fun person to read!