At The High Calling today, I have Part 1 an interview with Emily Wierenga, author of the recently released Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a loved one battling an eating disorder. Part 2 is below.
Q: In two periods in your life, you’ve had to come to grips with battling anorexia, first as a young girl, and then as a young married wife. How easy is it to slip into old behaviors, and how would you advise someone to be on their guard about their own tendencies?
Sadly it’s incredibly easy to fall back into old behaviors. Former disordered eaters are, in many ways, like recovered alcoholics. You may be healed, but you can never go back there.
You need to be aware of your triggers, the hang-ups that make you question yourself, question your worth, and fall backwards into self-abuse. You need accountability partners. You need to surround yourself with positive influences and people.
You need to foster a strong relationship with your Maker. And you need to avoid food-related topics, calorie-related conversations and anything that might distract you, like fashion magazines, weigh scales, and friends or acquaintances who talk negatively about their bodies or restrict their eating.
You need to advocate for yourself. Stand up and be your own bodyguard. Learn to recognize “the voice”, and whenever you start to hear the negative whispers, counter them with positive affirmation. Tell yourself, “I love you, Body.” Thank God for your arms which hold your babies, and legs which carry you places. And ask Him to continually renew your mind. As mentioned in Chasing Silhouettes, it is crucial to put on the armor of God each day. One of the best ways to do this is by following the advice by the authors of Intuitive Eating:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
3. Make Peace with Food Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can't or shouldn't have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police .Scream a loud "NO" to thoughts in your head that declare you're "good" for eating minimal calories or "bad" because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
5. Respect Your Fullness Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you're comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence--the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you've had "enough".
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won't fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won't solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You'll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It's hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
9. Exercise--Feel the Difference Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it's usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
10. Honor Your Health--Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don't have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It's what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.
(copied with permission from www.intuitiveeating.org)
Q: You include several stories in the appendix, including the story of Andrew. A major surprise for me was that, while eating disorders are most common in girls and women, boys and young men are not immune, either.
Yes, the fact that 10 percent of males struggle with bulimia and anorexia, and 35 percent battle binge-eating disorder, is largely hidden, and I desperately want to unveil the truth to both society and churches that many of us—men and women, boys and girls—need to re-learn how to eat, how to love and how to live. My father’s disordered eating was a very negative influence on me, and still is. He tends to be so restrictive (or careful), 90 percent of the year, and then leans towards binging when he’s on vacation. It taught me to be afraid of food—and I never really learned to relax about it and enjoy it, until I met my husband, for whom food is an absolute delight. A celebration—but in moderation.
Q: We like to believe that problems like this exist “out there in the culture” and not within the church, but the fact is the church, too, has people suffering with eating disorders. What can we as the church do to provide help and support?
I long to abolish the stigma that eating disorders and other mental illnesses have within the church. I know Christians struggle. My dad is a pastor. I am a pastor’s daughter. And my parents had no one to turn to, for fear of losing the respect of the Christian community.
Christians struggle with sickness, disease and warfare as much as any people group. The difference is, we don’t have to be ashamed of it. Because we already believe we’re a mess. Isn’t that the whole message of the Bible? That Jesus came to save us IN our weakness? Why do we always think we have to have it together? We, of all people, should know that we’re damned without God; the only one who can save us is the one who holds the cure. Jesus Christ is our Savior, but he can only save us if we are desperate. So let’s free up those who are suffering, let’s free them up to need Jesus. Let’s carry them to the cross so they can touch Jesus’ feet and let’s be loving about it all.
Because if church isn’t Christ-like, then the world has no hope.
Part 1 of the interview at The High Calling
My review of Chasing Silhouettes