Thoughts on Half the Sky

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Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

I am almost done reading this book, and I have to say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. The authors – a husband & wife journalist team – have traveled the world documenting the plight of oppressed women & girls offering inspiring stories of empowerment from remote villages and cities far away. Reading this book has redefined the way I view feminism – that it is not simply examining the role of women in music videos and looking for equality in the workplace in the West. Empowering women goes much farther and deeper than that. (Read the book to find out what I mean!)

I often find myself feeling guilty for food that has gone to waste because of my eating disorder, and the fact that I have spent so much time purposely limiting what I eat while others in the world need nutritious food so desperately. Instead of deepening my guilt and shame about these habits, reading this book has actually inspired me to continue in recovery. (Props to the Holy Spirit on that one, because it probably could have gone either way.) I want to move along in my recovery so that I can have more energy to devote to empowering other women – whether that be in my own neighborhood or across the world. It helps to read things that pull me out of my self-centered worldview. ED tends to create tunnel vision that doesn’t see the suffering of others.

This realization came at a great time for me since the holidays are always a difficult time for those of us recovering from eating disorders because everything is so food-centered. My prayer for myself will be that I can keep other women in my heart and mind & remember that baby Jesus came to liberate both them and me from the darkness that holds us in chains of eating disorders, poverty, abuse, patriarchy etc.

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“Full recovery from eating disorders is possible”

Many of us who have struggled with eating disorders know that going through a recovery program once or working through food issues during one period of life often doesn’t last forever. What I mean is that recovery is riddled with slip-ups, relapses, temptations, triggers, etc. 

I came across this article by Becky Henry last week and just the title alone has been an encouragement to me! FULL RECOVERY FROM EATING DISORDERS IS POSSIBLE. Those are words I don’t hear enough. I usually just hear (or think): this is something I will struggle with my whole life. Although this thinking is realistic for some, I think that at times it can quench the Spirit’s fire and God’s healing powers. I’m still trying to grasp what recovery from an ED really looks like, but in the midst of this battle it is very encouraging to read the words that full recovery (whatever it may mean) is possible.

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Hey there Johnny boy

I’m reading through John this week. Not sure why… I felt a little Holy Spirit nudge so I’m going along with it.

I have found something I wasn’t even looking for. I believe I may have found the most confusing verse EVER for people with eating disorders:

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you. On him God the father has placed his seal of approval.” -John 6:27

An anorexic brain may filter this verse to say, “God approves of you not eating.” And add a little footnote or commentary: “Refusing food will make you more spiritual.”

Obviously, the eating disordered interpretation of this verse is sorely wrong. Jesus’ words here are a response to the crowd following him the day after he miraculously fed all 5,000+ of them with 5 small loaves of bread and 2 little fishies. Upon further reflection and a little help from WIlliam Barclay‘s commentary (thanks to my very Scottish grandmother for giving me a set of Barlcay commentaries!) I gained a little more insight.

This crowd came looking for Jesus because they wanted more bread. Jesus sees right through them. The crowd of people missed the point of Jesus’ miracle entirely! Jesus does far more than give bread for the belly. These people saw God work miraculously, and all they seem to care about is their physical hunger. They saw GOD HIMSELF and all they want now is a snack. Come ON. Jesus’ words in verse 27 don’t show God’s approval of anorexic starvation… instead He is pointing to the truth that He is the only one who can satisfy our spiritual hunger. Bread and fish will never satisfy our longing for truth, for love, for life, for guidance, for belonging. Only Jesus can satisfy those needs!

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Prayer

In Mark 9:14-29, the disciples encounter a man with his young lad who is possessed by a demon. The father finds Jesus and tells him, “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” After Jesus casts out the demon, the disciples ask him why they were unable to do so. Jesus replies, “This kind can only come out by prayer.”

Apparently, the disciples didn’t even pray before trying to exorcise the demon from the boy! Or perhaps they didn’t pray rightly. In either case, the truth behind this passage is that we must maintain constant prayer and recognize that we can’t cast out demons without the strength and guidance of Jesus.

I think the same goes with eating disorders. I’m not expert on demons or spiritual warfare, but maybe some anoretics, bulimics, and people with over-eating disorder have some food demons latched onto them. This could be taken literally or figuratively. I think that an essential part of recovery (which is a lifelong process for some) is prayer. Praying against temptations to throw up or restrict or overeat or over-exercise. Praying for renewal and strength from the Lord. Praying for guidance and wisdom when it comes to recovery. Praying for strong relationships and friendships in order to get the support you need. And prayer to bring us out of our self-centered worlds to see others while we work through healing.

P.S. fun fact: this post was difficult to type because I got bit by a fawn and have a bandage on my pointer finger. who gets bit by a deer?? Seriously.

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Scripture connections

I seem to have forgotten I have a blog…. oops! Work has kept me very busy this summer! I want to share a few scriptures that have spoken to me lately about eating disorders. (Of course, I recognize that these verses were not written about EDs, however I think that the Truth behind them can apply to different situations.)

“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” -John 10:10

For men and women who struggle with anorexia, the temptation to stop eating is overpowering at times. Evil comes to rob life from  us… the very thing that gives us life – food! The Lord is a living God and wants to give us abundant life, that includes food. For some of us, this simple truth is incredibly difficult to grasp when all we can think about it how to keep ourselves from eating.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” -Psalm 81:10

A friend read me this verse and said to me, “I think this eating disorder is like your Egypt. God wants to deliver you and fill you.” !! The theme of  the Israelite exodus is deliverance, liberation from captivity. This verse speaks to me because I think that God wants to deliver us from our disordered eating, not keep us stuck in slavery to food.

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” -James 3:16

I’m doing a study on James this summer, and this verse stuck out to me not just because of the word disorder, but because of how I have experienced the truth behind this verse. EDs pull us into a selfish world where only food and our own bodies matter.

Again, I don’t claim to be an expert on Scripture, but I want to testify how the Lord has spoken to me through these verses. I hope that you or someone you know can find encouragement from these connections!

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Boys Boys Boys!

Myth: Only white, female teenagers can suffer from eating disorders.

All I have to say to that is NUH-UH!

Actually I have more to say than that. Although there is a much larger percentage of girls and women who struggle with serious eating issues, let’s not forget about the boys and men out there who have some of the same problems! It is very hard to estimate how many men have anorexia or bulimia because many never come forward for diagnosis and treatment. However, general estimates by NEDA say there are around 1,000,000 males in the U.S. that have eating disorders. I’m not even going to tackle the “only white people have EDs” stereotype yet… that is for a later post.

The fear of coming forward for diagnosis and treatment can stem from many things. I would presume that many men are held back because they don’t think it’s even possible for them to have an eating disorder. Or they feel ashamed because anorexia and bulimia are commonly labeled as “women’s diseases.”

Some doctors blame today’s male fashion. Ads commonly portray male models with emaciated bodies in skinny jeans. Rebecca Cooper writes about this in her article Male Anorexia. Just as I don’t blame female eating issues completely on the media, I don’t think we can blame men’s issues entirely on fashion either. Our skinny-obsessed culture certainly contributes to eating disorders, but there is a much more complicated psychological, familial, emotional AND spiritual background to male and female eating disorders.

If you have a male friend who is suffering or seems to be showing the symptoms of an eating disorder, please pray for them and don’t be afraid to talk to them about it! The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders, Inc. (or N.A.M.E.D.) is a great place to start finding resources specifically focused on helping men with eating issues. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) also has some helpful male-focused resources.

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Live a little!

This Easter season, we are celebrating Jesus’ life and resurrection. Today in church my pastor (who happens to be Filipino) said something along the lines of, “You Americans don’t know how to celebrate! For your birthday you get cake and pizza and around 8:00 you say it’s time to go home. But we Asians celebrate family differently. We have lots and lots of food… and we drink beer…. and we stay together the whole night celebrating and talking and just being together.” (I’m just quoting him and not going to go into a complex conversation about race or alcohol and all that, though I could if you wanted me to.)

Of course, my mind selfishly retorts, “Yeah but you don’t know how hard it is for some of us to celebrate with food!!”

Then I came home and baked some brownies for my friends. I realize the irony that I have a history of anorexic tendencies, yet baking is stress relieving for me. I love trying out new creations and baking new recipes, though not necessarily eating a lot of them.

In the spirit of celebrating food and trying to break food-related chains, I thought I’d post one of the best cake recipes I’ve ever tried. I made this for a friend’s birthday party and they told me this is one of the top 3 best things I’ve ever baked them. It’s also really sugary and unhealthy… consider yourself warned.

Here’s my baking tip for people who struggle with food-related issues: bake for a group big enough to eat your whole creation. Then you don’t have to worry about being tempted to binge, and you can just have a healthy portion and take in the joy your friends get from your badass cake.

Nutella Gooey Butter Cake

Cake:

1 box Devil’s Food cake mix

1 egg

8 Tbsp butter, melted

Filling:

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup Nutella

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

8 Tbsp butter, melted

4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the cake mix, egg and melted butter. This can be done with just a spoon if you’d like, no electric mixer needed. Pat half of cake mixture into greased 9 x 13 inch cake pan. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer combine the cream cheese and Nutella until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla and melted butter, then add powdered sugar. Pour over cake layer and spread evenly. Then pour in second half of cake mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes. The center should still be gooey, do not overbake!

Recipe taken from www.bakingjunkie.com

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Thoughts on Scripture

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

-Genesis 1:27

… Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves… and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

-Genesis 3:7-8

They were ashamed of their bodies! I’ve never realized this aspect of the creation story before. This is not something new or unique to people with eating disorders in the 21st century… this was one of the very first struggles that human beings experienced after the fall.

Therefore since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.

-2 Corinthians 4:1-2

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven – God-made, not hand-made – and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. 

-2 Corinthians 5:1 (Message version)

I love chapters 4 & 5 of 2 Corinthians. And look! Other people struggle because they don’t feel fully at home in their earthly bodies. This experience of not feeling fully “shalom” (or well, or fully at peace) in the fleshly body is not something new. It goes even deeper into the human experience. For me, it’s comforting to know that people have experienced these same feelings about their bodies since the very beginning. I recognize that those feelings haven’t manifested themselves into eating disorders for all people, but I still see a connection. I don’t think that God wants us to have eating disorders, but perhaps He isn’t calling us to be entirely “at home” here either. I don’t think we’ll fully comprehend these things until we get our resurrection bodies and the Kingdom comes completely. And I am so looking forward to that day!! (Jesus, if you’re reading this, come back soon!)

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Tips for helping a friend

I recently came across a great non-profit called The Joy Project. They have many resources for helping people overcome eating disorders and they have posted a great do/don’t list of ways to support a loved one:

Don’t…

  • Blame
  • Threaten
  • Criticize
  • Complain about the size of your own thighs
  • Ask them for diet advice
  • Stare at them while they’re eating
  • Play food police, monitor everything they eat
  • Comment on the size or shape of their body
  • Minimize their feelings
  • Talk about the calorie content in foods
  • Force them to eat everything they’re afraid of all at once. Instead, encourage them to add a few new foods back onto their “safe” list* every week.
  • Force them to eat large amounts of food all at once. Doing so will likely cause them tremendous anxiety which will trigger them into compensating through purging, exercising, abusing laxatives, or skipping their next meals.
  • Punish them for not eating. They don’t eat because they truly believe that they DO deserve to be punished. They’re already punishing themselves. Adding additional punishment only reinforces the negative thoughts they have about themselves.
  • Discuss eating disorders, weight, calories, stressful topics, or health issues at meal times. Keep the focus on enjoyable social interaction.
  • Deny that there is a problem. Denial will result in a relatively small problem getting progressively bigger and more problematic until it is impossible to deny it any longer. It’s better to address it right away.
  • Follow them every time they go into the kitchen. They may start avoiding the kitchen if you keep making it into a big event that requires spectators. Many eating disordered people feel that they are not ALLOWED to eat (regardless of how often they are told to). It is common for them to feel uncomfortable when other people know they are eating.
  • Ask how much they weigh. If they’re too thin, too large, or just generally unhealthy-looking, that’s all you need to know. There is no need to add more focus to the issue of “numbers.” A balanced diet should eventually lead to a balanced weight. Leave numbers out of the conversation.
  • Discuss other people’s weight, eating habits, or appearance.
  • Make judgments about any person based on their physical appearance.
  • Compare them to other famous people who have had eating disorders.
  • Assume that if they’re not seriously underweight, they’re ok. Even a clinically obese person can be malnourished, and anyone can die at any time from electrolyte imbalance. Not only that, but a person can be in serious emotional and psychological pain no matter what size they are.
  • Dismiss their fears about food and weight as “crazy talk.” Many eating disordered thoughts are based on real facts, but are greatly magnified and distorted to the point where they are no longer rational. Instead of just saying “that’s the eating disorder talking,” help them to CONFRONT those thoughts. Encourage them to find facts to dispute their thoughts. Encourage them to question their fears.

*”safe list” – a list of foods, usually with very low calories, that someone deems safe to eat (a safe list may include carrots, egg whites, apples, lettuce, black coffee, gum, cucumbers etc.)

Do…

  • Listen
  • Speak non-judgmentally
  • Encourage them to participate in activities completely unrelated to food issues
  • Encourage them to continue socializing and avoid isolation (not always easy)
  • Give positive feedback about personality traits and unique qualities unrelated to appearance
  • Encourage them to learn about balanced diets (note: NOT “dieting,” as in losing weight)
  • Gently let them know if they look sick, unhealthy, tired, or sad
  • Validate their feelings. Even if you disagree, let them know that they have the right to see things through their own point of view.
  • Eat with them, or eat in front of them and offer to share. Many eating disordered people find it easier to eat with others (don’t be forceful though, this is not always easy for them. Make it a safe situation, not a stressful or confrontational one).
  • Keep plenty of their safe foods in the house
  • Minimize the amount of binge foods in the house, or in plain sight
  • Encourage them to eat a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat at every meal
  • Educate yourself on the psychology behind eating disorders
  • Take care of your own emotional needs. Caring for someone with an eating disorder can be extremely stressful. If you neglect your own emotional well-being, there is a good chance you’ll end up lashing out at the eating disordered person, which will cause them to withdraw and you to feel guilty. Don’t be afraid to seek therapy of your own, or to take time out to focus on something other than the eating disorder.
  • Examine your own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors related to food and body image. You cannot effectively encourage someone to confront their own issues with food if you are very obviously ignoring your own.
  • Let them know if you have noticed a change in their personality or overall energy level. Again, be clear, but non-judgmental.
  • Talk to them about plain, everyday things. Remember that they’re normal human beings who just happen to be incredibly focused on one small aspect of life. Remind them that there is more to who they are than simply food and their weight.
  • Remind them of their strengths and long-term goals (or, encourage them to start thinking about what it is that they want to accomplish in life and what kind of a life they will look back on and feel proud of) Again, be gentle and encouraging, not judgmental.

The original list can be found HERE.

Adios Barbie blog

I was bopping around the internet this morning mining various eating disorder related sites and articles. I came across this blog and wanted to share! As I have many other things to do today (you know, praying, eating breakfast, saving the world etc.), I haven’t been able to explore the site in depth, but so far it looks great. The site doesn’t just focus on body image & eating disorders, but also on issues regarding aging, gender roles, LGBTQ, race & culture, sexuality, and other things. So great!

Or maybe I just like the name: Adios Barbie

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