Honestly, I hardly noticed the change when it was happening, but now that I sit on the other side – on the other side of disordered eating and body image issues – I recognize my freedom from it and healing in situations that used to enslave me….
Things like eating dinner out with friends, shopping in the mall, showering and getting dressed in the morning, scheduling my weekly workouts, enduring an acne break out or being around other women.
Those moments felt like a living nightmare and used to [quietly] kill me.
If your life looks anything like mine, these sorts of things happen on a daily basis. So if you do the math, I used to spend the majority of my days – the majority of my life – feeling crappy about myself, hating my body and fearing the things I need to do to simply function, like eat.
My days were a string of events that felt more like failures in the basic functions of existence and I felt like a failure before I even stepped foot outside each morning.
It didn’t matter how hard I worked, the things I achieved, the nice stuff people said about me or how my life looked on the outside, underneath I believed I wasn’t good enough- never would be- and feared being found out.
The reality is, our culture and society preys on this type of behaviour and if you ask around, you’ll quickly discover you’re not alone.
Nearly every woman battles these feelings in one form or another. Yes, we all experience them in varying degrees, but never the less, I have yet to meet a single woman who confidently declares she sees no need to change anything about her body or can’t relate to at least one of the battles I used to face daily.
But the truth is, that’s half the problem! I saw my eating disorder and my obsession with my body as normal and so do a lot of woman! We believe that because it’s common and “normal” that it’s ok; that preoccupation with looks and food are just a females reality that needs to be embraced and survived. No one told me any different! But deep down, I knew that wasn’t good enough; I knew that was wrong and I started craving something different- something more…
I wanted to not just accept myself, but even like my body! I wanted to enjoy food again with ZERO guilt or regret. I wanted to love getting dressed without turning sideways to ensure everything looked flat. I wanted my mind to be free from negative self talk; to just be me without shame or wanting to change.
I started praying desperately for God to change me, asking that he would free me from the thoughts and behaviours that taunted and harassed me every. single. moment. of. every. day. I read my bible daily for encouragement and hope because the burden of my daily existence felt heavy and hopeless.
The LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners- Isaiah 61:1
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart. – Matthew 11:28-30
I started to think: If God truly is who He says He is and if He sent His son Jesus to bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free, then this reality I’m living in isn’t from him, because it’s hell!
And like a light switch, my perspective flipped. I saw for the first time that I had been deceived. I recognized what a lot of Christians talked about but hadn’t yet acknowledged in my own life: satan at work in areas where I had given him permission.
Satan is a deceiver who disguises himself in light – things that look and feel good [initially] – but intimately he comes only to kill, steal and destroy. And when I was honest with myself, I recognized that he had done exactly that in this aspect of my life: satan had killed my confidence in who I am as a unique woman, he stole my joy in much of my daily existence and he destroyed my ability to see beyond myself and my pain much of the time…
If your first concern is yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. – Matthew 10: 38-39 MSG
No matter what I was doing, my mind was always preoccupied with how I felt or how I looked, constantly analyzing, comparing and despising my reality. Even my best efforts couldn’t tear me away from my thoughts for longer than a few minutes. No one got the best of me, except me and I surely wasn’t giving myself the best treatment either. Without realizing it, I had made myself and my body my idol.
i·dol – an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship and placed above God in one’s life.
I realized the battle was not one of flesh and blood but of Spirit and if I was going to win – to break free once and for all from my disordered eating and body image issues – I need to get serious about fighting with the right weapon: prayer. I had to listen to what scripture tells me and follow it’s instructions:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil. – Ephesians 6:12
‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. – Zecharaih 4:6
I waited patiently and expectantly for the Lord; And He heard my cry. He brought me up out of a horrible pit [of tumult and of destruction], and He set my feet upon a rock, steadying my footsteps and establishing my path. – Psalm 40: 1-2
Be generous to the poor and everything will be clean for you. Luke 11:41
And so I did. I prayed, I read my bible, I trusted God and I waited to hear from him. I posted scripture all over my house, my car and my purses – essentially any and every place I would look regularly- and praying it out loud over myself. At first it felt hopelessly silly and I barely believed a word of it applied to me and my life. But in time, my God took my mustard size seed of faith and moved mountains with it. He changed my heart and I developed a confidence that freedom not only possible but it was coming!
I took verses to heart like Matthew 10: 40-41, that instructed to start small in our generous acts, like giving someone thirsty a cup of water; that even the smallest acts of giving done in love, become great.
I asked God to open my eyes each day to ways I could be generous- to make me sensitive to the needs around me- and like a floodgate, things came left right and centre. And something amazing started to happen…
as I responded to those needs, believing for my own healing, my heart and mind started to change – I began to heal from my disordered eating and body image issues.
It wasn’t overt, but days would come would suddenly I was acting different in familiar situations and the things that used to bother me, suddenly didn’t! I felt freer, happy and I actually started to like myself. Things would happen and like a third party bystander, I’d reflect and realize I was a different person. I was almost afraid to say it out loud in fear of going back, but with time and more consistency, I realized God really was healing me slowly!
Over the course of a year, I attended weekly counselling. I discovered that my struggles with food and body image directly correlated with my stress levels. When I was upset about something – typically something outside of my control – my issues would flair up.
I also discovered that the root of my struggles were lies that has been planted from experiences in my childhood; primarily the lie that I had to be perfect in order to be liked, loved and accepted.
From my very first memories I learnt that life is a competition, including relationship. I felt as if I had never been anyone’s first choice or true love; it was always me against someone else. Deep down, I wanted to be cherish and adored. I wanted to loved and accepted because of who I was not because of how I looked, acted or what I achieved.
But the only time people seemed to acknowledge or praised me- which felt like love and acceptance at the time – was for my beauty, my perfectionistic ways, my strength [aka: walled up emotions] and my achievements. And it perpetuated a cycle of striving, thinking I had to earn love or prove myself worthy.
At my core, I don’t know or understand unconditional love or anything apart from my looks and my performance.
I wish I could tell you that healing was an easy three step program and that I recovered from my eating disorder and body image issues by learning to love myself and give myself grace. But I didn’t.
In my experience that doesn’t work and what culture tells us will set us free – female empowerment- will never fully free us. It may help in the short term and bandaid the struggle for a while, but in the end it only perpetuates the problem and nurtures lies of inadequacy and unworthiness at our core.
For me, it was only Jesus that could set me free and bring be back to wholeness; Jesus and the hard work of weekly counselling, discovering, uprooting and replacing the lies I’d come to believe.
My counsellor helped me understand that freedom and healing is largely a heart issue which requires not just healing but transformation. We must die to the old self [the old way of thinking] to discover the new. And if that healing is to be lasting, it must be a work of The [Holy] Spirit. No amount of will power on our part can transform us. Only God can! Our part is simply to show up and be honest about our brokenness.
Typically, addictive behaviour, disorders and obsessions are the result of a warped core belief that develops at an early age. From then on, that wrong belief subconsciously steers our thoughts and our actions as we mature. To be free of it, we must discover what the lie is, uproot it and replace it with truth.
For me, this lie was that unless I was perfect in my behaviour and my looks, people would reject me and ultimately I’d be alone and unloved. I subconsciously believed at my core that my looks were a direct line to love. Food was simply my way of controlling that.
Once I took that to Jesus for healing and committed to the work with my counsellor, I found healing.
Today, I rest in the confidence of who Jesus created me to be. Im imperfect and so is my body, but Im very much OK with that. I love food and love to enjoy it in moderation and without guilt. I work out to feel good and because it makes me feel alive. It doesn’t own me, nor does the calorie burn. I am satisfied with my wardrobe and how I look in the clothes I wear. I rarely ever give my dress much thought anymore and I can count on one hand the times I’ve felt the need to shop or acquire more. I am content in both my life and my skin, trusting Jesus for the grace I need each day to continue to walk in freedom.
Friend it’s not hopeless and your healing is just around the corner! It starts with humility and honesty, seeing our need for a Saviour.
If you’d like to invite Jesus into your pain and ask him to begin a healing work in you, pray along with me:
“Jesus, I believe you are who you say you are. That you came to earth, as The Son of God, to die for my mistakes and shortcomings on a cross. That in you, I am forgiven and given a new life, both now and in eternity. I share my struggle with you now, the things and behaviours that hold me hostage: __________ I confess that I have tried in my own strength to heal and free myself but I can’t. I need you. Please begin a healing work in me. Repair my heart and replace the lies I have believed with your truth:That I am loved exactly as I am. Please make yourself real to me in a way I cannot deny. Thank you that you came to bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free. I claim that promise for myself now! Thank you in advance for the work you will do in my heart. Believing for complete and total healing and freedom, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Don’t go through this alone! If you have never shared your struggle with someone, start there by confiding in someone you trust. If you have no one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would strongly suggest you reach out to a professional [Christian] counsellor, such as FREE TO BE COUNSELLING, if you live in the Vancouver Lower mainland or Fraser Valley.
Get in your Bible and start reading about who you are in Christ. Post scripture around your house and read it out loud to yourself daily. Knowledge is power when we give it space to thrive- to move from our head to our heart.
If you are not a person of the Christian Faith, try reading these healing affirmations out loud over yourself each day:
I am a divine creation. I love and accept myself where I am right now. I enjoy who I am and the wonderful parts of my character. I choose joy. I live in the now. Each moment is a new gift. It is safe to be me. I am safe in this world and I trust the process of life. – Heal Your Body | Louise Hay
Other resources that played a part in my healing journey and may serve you well:
Christian Faith Based
Non- Faith Based
- Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown
- I thought it was just me, but it isn’t – Brene Brown