Our Pastor has inspired me to use this season to improve my attitude of gratitude. I have committed to writing about thirty things I’m grateful for. Even the hard stuff. Gratitude is not about our circumstances. It is a choice.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Today I’m grateful for my body.
Now that may sound really brazen. I’m on the thin side, so some may think that is easy for me to say. Some may even think it sounds boastful. But I assure you it’s not. You see, I struggled for almost twenty years with an eating disorder called Bulimia.
Webster Dictionary defines Bulimia as
“an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.”
Let’s look at the word distortion. The definition is
“a change, twist, or exaggeration that makes something appear different from the way it really is.”
I’ve always been relatively thin. It runs in my family. But because of childhood trauma my identity was defined by the emotional needs of others. That’s cause for a lot of dysfunction. In my case, I believed that if I was perfect enough, I could control the behavior of others. I believed that if people valued me as perfect, then I would finally experience the love I so desperately sought.
I could never be thin enough.
At nineteen, I entered a fitness model contest. I was in amazing shape. I worked hard, denied my cravings and built the body I had dreamed of. But when I looked in the mirror I saw the same body I had always seen. One that was imperfect and disappointing. One that didn’t measure up.
A year later I moved to New Jersey to pursue a modeling career in New York. I lost another ten pounds and got down to 111 pounds at 5’8″. I was so emaciated that my face just sunk in. When I returned home, my own family didn’t recognize me when they picked me up from the airport. Everybody commented that I looked like I had been sick. I deflected their comments, but inside I was pleased. I thought I had finally arrived. But when I looked in the mirror, I still didn’t measure up.
That’s distortion. That’s the lie we buy into. That we have to be perfect. That we are damaged goods. And as a therapist once told me, we spend the rest of our lives trying to disprove the lie that we are bad.
I found something even more interesting about the meaning of the word distortion on the Wikipedia site.
“a distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of something, such as an object, image, sound or waveform.”
That is profoundly true! What is our original shape?
The image of God!
We are made in the image of God! That is our original shape! But because of sin and brokenness and hurt and darkness, our original shape is altered and distorted. Since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden, man’s natural instinct has been to pursue his identity apart from God. That’s why we are broken! But there is GOOD NEWS! There is redemption in Jesus Christ!
As believers, we must understand our identity in Christ!
As people recovering recovery from eating disorders, I think we must pursue 3 key disciplines.
- Forgiveness of self and others. People with eating disorders keep standards that no one can meet. It’s a way to stay in a perpetual state of disappointment that allows one to punish themselves and others. A person with an eating disorder will be served well by focusing on forgiveness, which leads to acceptance.
- Communication. I was unable to communicate my feelings as a child because of fear and shame. For me Bulimia started as an experiment, and quickly led to an obsession. It became a way to not only purge my food, but symbolically to purge my painful feelings. Please talk with someone you trust. Reach out.
- Renewing our mind. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” When we focus on the Truth instead of our feelings, we are renewed. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of the world, we are renewed. We must learn who we really are. Who God made us to be. Who God says we are. Most importantly, we must learn who God himself is. That is a process.
Eating disorders are mental disorders and they are complicated. If you have one, I pray you will get professional help. I’m not a trained professional, and only share my personal experience and beliefs. I have 7 years of recovery from my disorder without one single relapse. All Glory to God! I have been delivered and set free and I believe that is possible for every one of us.
I’m praying that you will have the strength to look into the eyes of Jesus and see the absolute love and adoration He has for you. You are enough. He has a plan for your life. It is a good plan, because He is a good God.
What are you grateful for today?