I feel a little nervous about sharing this post, simply because it's one of the more vulnerable places in my head, heart, and story (as we all fear being deeply known do in some way, shape, or form). But I am sharing this nonetheless, hoping that it might bring hope and healing and honesty to those struggling with food and weight. If you are struggling, there is hope in Jesus and healing in His name. xo . . . kate
Food and I have always had a strained relationship (pun intended… ha). I don’t know if you can relate, but the weight of what I consumed mattered mostly because of the weight on the scale for most of my life. As a young kid, I watched my family struggle with food as well: binge eating, binge working out, binge comparing and commenting on the bodies of people around them. I learned from them in every way and even made up my own “rules” about what eating food should look like. Despite my mom’s greatest efforts to care for my struggles with food (we did nutrition classes, etc. etc.), I went from a kid binge-eater to a starving, disordered teen with full-on anorexia at the age of 17.
As a 15-year-old me, my dad took me to Nashville for a trip to pursue a music industry contact who promised me the world (but then went MIA when she said she would take me here//there to meet “this one guy” that she knew in the music industry). While we were in Nashville, my dad turned to me in the car and said, “Well, Katie, I want you to know that you can have any amount of talent in the world but if you don’t have ‘the look,’ you won’t go far.” In the moment I wasn’t sure what to do with his comment. Should I ask further what he meant? Should I fill in the blanks? I didn’t have to. I knew what he meant.
I can remember being at sleepovers and pool parties and knowing that my body wasn’t like the “cool girl’s” body, embarrassed to change and embarrassed to swim. I was grateful for a wildly conservative youth group who had the girls wear a dark tshirt OVER THEIR ONE-PIECE SWIMSUIT while at pool parties. (Like WHA?! I guess in Arizona in the 90s that was a thing… but in Southern California we’re working to keep ladies’ butts completely covered with the new rise in bikini-thong fashion… yeesh!) Always, I received the message that my body wasn’t what it was supposed to be.
In eighth grade I did 100 sit-ups every night for about a month to make sure that my abs were going someplace. Unfortunately that 6-pack was hidden under some other fluff and I felt even thicker than before. In ninth grade I went on a full-on diet and lost a whopping eight pounds and I was so proud of my efforts. I gained them back stress-eating due to my parent’s divorce and the boy at school not liking me back.
I learned about eating disorders in 10th grade in our health class, always making comments about how I could never be an anorexic because I loved eating food and was always wondering if it was time to eat again. I had no idea that my struggle with food that warred privately in my head was merely setting the scene for the enemy to create a stronghold that took years to break.
The part I didn’t see coming was the disorder. I was simply eating healthy, but then as I became more successful at dropping the pounds, I became obsessive, allowing the only way I expressed myself to be through what I would or would not eat. I was overwhelmed by the thoughts I was thinking—I was still thinking about food all the time, but it was only in relation to what I would allow myself to eat and where I would get it and how I would prepare it. The disordered self was overrun with emotion and fear and sadness and hunger and control and spinning out. I could barely hang on to my own life and my friends slowly started to pull away from me because I was not ok. The weirdest part about the whole thing was that I thought I was being a “good Christian girl,” yet there was a battle in my mind that I was obviously losing.
Eating disorders become a form of addiction, and in many ways my addiction was unseen as I went about my life, invested in school, family, church, and my own perfectionistic performance. I know what it looks like to be completely involved in the church, to spend time religiously every morning in God’s Word and in journaling, to be pursing x, y, or z with my life, and yet still be entrenched in the grip of an addiction. I loved it because I was successful at it, and I was successful all by myself. It was my own little treat to myself and it was completely hidden… or so I thought. Through the invitation of my youth pastor (who saw what was going on the whole time, duh, me), the Holy Spirit stirred in me a confession that so was so necessary to spit out: I think I have an eating disorder. My youth pastor cried with me, said he knew and it broke his heart to watch me go through this. He told me that there is freedom in Jesus. I went home and talked to my mom; she had already made a doctor’s appointment for the next day as a sort of intervention.
Why do I share this with you? Because if you struggle with food, too, there is freedom. Because if you struggle with any kind of addiction, there is freedom.
“It is FOR FREEDOM that you have been set free” the book of Galatians proclaims. You do not have to live in the hiddenness of your addiction to food, to pornography, to TV, to working out, to control, to image-management, to people-approval and people-pleasing. Christ demolished the power of sin and the strongholds of the enemy when He died and defeated death by rising again, yet as Christians we can still have strongholds because we come into agreement with lies that the enemy tells us.
What are the lies that you agree with? Literally. Write them down. What are the lies that you agree with?
You will see it come out in your behavior toward others, toward your family, and in your attitude, but most of all you will find those places in the places you don’t want to tell anyone about. There are things that we hide—you, me, everyone—and in those places the enemy has the opportunity to whisper the most untrue thing about you. When you agree with those things, you begin to form a stronghold.
Jesus breaks a stronghold and takes care of the spiritual part of the stronghold, but the physical stuff, because we are embodied souls, we have to do our part to care for the physical. Jesus’ blood isn’t a magic wand to make everything happy and fix everything; it is a life-force that brings renewal to places you thought were dead. Similar to gardening, you don’t “fix” a plant, you dig up the weeds and teach it how to grow.
I had to go to counseling for years, which uncovered the mis-ordered family dynamics which left me feeling helpless and without a voice. I had to go to a nutritionist. I had to be brave and eat a piece of bread because my body was literally dying. I backslid, but then I had to reset for the next day and try to repair the physical damage while walking through the emotional damage.
It takes work to overcome. Jesus bought the victory, but we have a part to play in agreeing with His truth and living out of that place. Anything less than that will leave us out of the intended order that He created—the dis-order.
What do you need to do to step into freedom? Jesus has done the hard part, but now you have an opportunity.
There is so much more to be said regarding this topic, but I want you to know most of all that you are created by God to be free from anything that rules you in this way.
In the next post, I will talk about the damage of comparison, the chains of bulimia, and the way it feels to forget there was a disorder at all.