I’m haunted by the eyes of a nine-year-old girl – a nine-year-old girl who thinks she’s too fat and begins to starve herself.
Nine years old. Those eyes belonged – still belong – to Emily Wierenga, and she’s now writing about what happened.
Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a loved one battling an eating disorder may well be one of the most important books published for the church this year. That’s right, I said for the church. Because eating disorders don’t just happen outside the church; they happen in the church, too, to pastors’ daughters like Wierenga. And the church can do great good – and great harm – in how it responds.
The book is a painful read. It is also a hopeful read.
Wierenga has structured each major section of Chasing Silhouettes with a story, including perspectives of both the person with the disorder and family and friends; observations and insights by medical professionals; practical advice on what to do and not do if you’re trying to help; and then a prayer.
What this structure does is to provide a comprehensive look at what constitutes an eating disorder – it is physical, biological, emotional, and spiritual. Those are the roads Wierenga takes us down as she opens up her own experience, mind, and heart. And one of the critical points she makes is this – you cannot heal a loved one of an eating disorder. They have to decide that they want to be healed, and you cannot make that decision for them, no matter how much you love them.
And it happens to girls as young as seven. And to young men, whose commitment to physical training crosses a line into obsession.
So this is a book for people suffering eating disorders and the people who often have to watch in pain and agony as someone lives through – and sometimes dies – from an eating disorder. As Wierenga writes in the prologue: “I was that girl you are trying to save. The one who is all rib and screaming and slamming the door., the one who once laughed, who now wants to die. And this is killing you…While I was that girl, I’m now a woman who wants desperately to live.”
Chasing Silhouettes is about pain and tragedy, yes. But it is mostly about hope.