That probably sounds ridiculous, even ludicrous. And it is. But having had anorexia nervosa, my "best friend" was once the scale. The numbers on the scale don't rule all my thoughts as they once did, but I could probably still tell you the approximate caloric value of most foods I consume.
Thankfully, my case was not nearly as severe as many. My friends, family and, most of all, God eventually helped me to recover. The process was slow, with setbacks along the way. But the first necessary step for a person with an eating disorder is to admit that he or she has a problem. I was in denial about it for a long time. If you are reading this right now, pray and meditate about it and ask God to show you if you have a problem.
The second step is wanting to recover. That sounds kind of crazy, but as a recent study shows, the brain may actually get a lift from being nutrient-deprived, similar to taking a drug, that tends to perpetuate anorexic behavior. With anorexics, like other addicts, the desire to recover is very elusive. However, unlike those other behaviors, you are not bingeing on a substance—you are doing the opposite. Instead, you are addicted to your harmful thought patterns.
The biggest irony is that you do have self-control, albeit distorted! It takes a huge amount of willpower to keep refusing food, to starve yourself, but the anorexic person learns to ignore the hunger. And when you are motivated by other things—for instance, the desire to control an area of your life that hasn't already been taken over by everyone else, the desire to be valued, the desire to please others, the desire to be perfect or whatever the desire may be, then these can become such powerful driving forces that, after a while, physical hunger pangs seem to grow weaker.
But this is all twisted! What is wrong with this thinking? It is relying on the self, and/or the opinion of others, rather than on God. Don't get me wrong—friends and family do have a role in boosting our self-esteem, and this is critical in early childhood development. But as adults, we must not draw our main security from comparing ourselves among ourselves, which God through Paul tells us is not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). It is basing a distorted standard of perfection on the physical appearance, rather than on the spiritual and godly values.
What is true beauty anyway? Proverbs 31:30 says it so well: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised." Some of the most inwardly beautiful people I know would be considered "overweight" by the charts and tables.
When the prophet Samuel was told to go to Jesse and anoint a future king from among Jesse's sons, it was all too easy to be impressed by David's good-looking elder brothers. But God reminded him that "the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). You know what? David was good-looking, too, but of a healthy, robust type: "Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking" (verse 12). But most important of all, David had the heart that God was looking for (1 Samuel 13:14).
My purpose here is to tell all those with anorexic thoughts out there, don't try the starvation route! What will you gain? Can you serve God and others effectively when you are obsessed with your appearance? Will you really feel better as a person if you look more "beautiful" on the outside? Besides, the emaciated look isn't very attractive anyway. It isn't worth it! Even from a purely physical standpoint, it isn't worth going around most of the day feeling weak, having blackouts, suffering from mental fogginess that affects your grades and your moods, having a weakened immune system, feeling cold most of the time, being deceitful around family members in order to avoid eating and, worse yet, risking long-term consequences such as heart damage or fertility problems. Anorexia can and does kill too.
And while 25 years or so later, I still struggle at times to accept a body weight I know is more realistic, I am very healthy and energetic compared to how I used to feel. I have a whole host of wonderful Christian friends in the Body of Christ—a blessing that all of us need, whatever our background.
But, most of all, I have God, who loves me and cares about me. He doesn't want us to abuse our bodies. He made us in His own image, and our bodies are the temple in which His Spirit dwells. When we obey God, He gives us the acceptance we need, and we gain confidence and security through Him. We can indeed do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Jesus became human for us, so He knows and understands our shortcomings. If we admit to the Father that we have them, Jesus will intercede for us (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Do build a network of good friends around you. Not the kind of friends who will encourage and perpetuate wrong thinking, but those who will tend to bring out the best in you. As the Bible says, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).
I have a wonderful husband and friends who appreciate me for who I am as a person, who know I am far from perfect, but who help build in me a healthy self-esteem yet reliance on God. I desire to give a part of myself to them, because in giving of ourselves, we reach outside of ourselves, which heals us. To comfort and build one another up is one of the roles of the Body of Christ, the Church. While avoiding all extremes, including such things as binge eating or bulimia, we should ignore the unrealistic glamour ads and magazine cover photos (the models are often deceptively nipped and tucked anyway!), and instead, emulate the mind of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5).
And beware of browsing the Internet for "like-minded" anorexics—this approach is dangerous to say the least, and while there may be a few good sites, there are numerous so-called online "support groups" that actually reinforce anorexia.
Yes, I must admit that the scale is still in my life, but it has diminished in importance, and God is becoming the standard by which I must measure myself. God and the Body of Christ, of which Jesus is the Head, are there to help us to "weigh in" regularly so that we can learn to measure up spiritually to the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
This article appears in the following topics: Eating Disorders