Hello friends and happy Monday!!
I hope you had a beautiful weekend!
Just wanted to thank you guys for sharing in the excitement with me about my upcoming speaking engagement on the 29th in Memphis! I was so touched by your support and prayers – so thank you with all my heart!
One of the things I’m going to be doing, is ending the sessions with a “Q &A” portion. And this in particular is making me a bit nervous! SO – to practice, I asked y’all on my Instagram to send in your questions about recovery/ED, and let me just say — you guys came THROUGH!
So — without further ado…here are my answers (as a non-medical professional!)
How to stop thinking about food 24/7 😩😩😩
The answer to this question is not particularly going to be an easy one to hear…but it is the truth. The reason a person in recovery/ED is thinking about food all the time is because they are still actively restricting, or not getting sufficient nutrition/calories.
Here’s the thing…the body is designed to survive. It is out animal instinct — to live. And so if it is not getting enough calories to survive and thrive, it’s going to turn on the mental “MAYDAY” SOS signal in your brain, to make the body intake more food — because it is in literal distress.
So what is one surefire way to do this? By making you think about it all the time.
When I was actively in my anorexia, I thought about food all the time. It would be the first thing I thought about in the morning, and the last thing I thought about when I went to bed. In fact – I used to dream about it. It was a sick obsession. I’d watch the food network religiously, I’d look at Pinterest food recipes all the time, I’d constantly bake cookies for people and yet never even taste-test the cookie dough. Heck, I’d even go to the grocery store every day just to walk down the aisles and look at the food in a masochistic way, never letting myself enjoy it.
A 24/7 preoccupation with food is a HUGE red flag that there is restriction happening. Food is fuel for our bodies, yes – but also a source for pleasure, let’s not forget that, or make that a bigger deal than it should be.
When we nourish our bodies with enough nutrients to function and thrive, and also allow ourselves to enjoy the beautiful, delicious array of tastes and flavors God gave us, then food will take its proper place in our lives.
We eat. We enjoy. We move on. Never obsessing or deliberating because hey – we eat three meals a day, no food is off limits, and there’s always tomorrow 🙂
OH – and on that note — one last thing — I did go through a “binge period.” I wrote about it here — but the obsession with food is not only present in someone with anorexia. It’s also an obsession with people struggling with binge eating. There’s this “all or nothing” mindset with binging, and so you restrict, restrict, restrict, and then just gorge on everything you’ve been denying yourself. So obviously, you’re obsessing over what you’re going to binge on later. It’s this truly life-ruining cycle that is incredibly hard to break. But just let yourself enjoy food. When we ditch the labels of “good” or “bad” — then we can eat freely, let ourselves enjoy and be satisfied, and that urge to binge will literally dissipate overnight when we just eat without restriction or guilt!
Did you seek residential treatment?
Yes, I did seek residential treatment. I went to inpatient for two months, and honestly, I fully advocate for inpatient/residential (they’re interchangeable terms) — as the best/ –in my opinion, only way– to fully recover.
To be clear: I was adamant at the time against going. As an 18-year-old senior in high school, I was legally an adult, and therefore, my parents legally could not force me to go to inpatient.
It was four days before my graduation and a bed finally opened up at the best inpatient treatment facility in the country. I would not even entertain the idea of missing my graduation, but the fact is, I was 78 pounds, and my situation was so dire, that the doctors didn’t think I had four more days. I needed to go, now.
So my parents staged an intervention, and long story short, I was on an airplane the next morning, flying across the country to inpatient.
NOW – since then, I have become such an advocate for inpatient, because I feel it is the only way one can truly recover. Here’s why:
In her home environment, she is still in control. Up until that point, she’s figured out a way to manipulate her parents and loved ones into actively engaging in ED behaviors, either openly or secretively. So in order to fully heal, she needs to be completely removed from that environment and placed in a situation where she has no other options than to relinquish control.
At inpatient, you are monitored 24/7 — they control the media you consume, your daily activity, the food you eat, they even flush the toilet for you.
The biggest thing, in my opinion, is that it is unfair to the parents. By trying to recover at home, it places the parents in the position of “food police” and forces them to be the “bad cop” — which is detrimental on so many levels. As I mentioned before, she has already learned which “buttons to push” to get her way — but additionally, parents need to remove themselves from the battle and the standoff struggle over food. It is a power play, and the parents need to not engage. At inpatient, there is a nurse who literally monitors what she eats, and won’t let her leave the table until every morsel of food is gone. That type of hard line simply cannot be drawn in a home environment by the parents.
Furthermore, residential/inpatient is at a medical facility. Sure it may be camouflaged as a spa or retreat-like atmosphere, but the fact is — there are doctors and medical staff and equipment at the ready, should, God-forbid something happen. Refeeding syndrome is a very very real thing, and particularly during the initial period, a starving body needs to gradually be nourished. Otherwise, this tsunami-like influx of food could send her weak heart into cardiac arrest. It’s a real thing, and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to try to navigate that delicate balance at home without the supervision of a doctor. #JustMyTwoCents
What advice would you give to those who are ministering to/walking with someone who is in recovery?
Aside from encouraging her to get professional help/continue on with her care team in an outpatient relationship, I think it is incredibly important to be as knowledgable about eating disorders as possible.
By learning about ED, you not only are communicating through your actions to this person that you care enough to become familiar about what they’re going through, but also allows you to more deeply connect. Eating disorders are not about the weight, they’re not about the food — and I can’t begin to express how much it meant to have a person in my life that realized that. Who didn’t look at me as the number on the scale, or see my “progress” or “worth” as how much food I ate or didn’t eat that day, but rather, saw me for me. Who wanted to know my interior, rather than just fixating on my exterior. See her as a person, not just a case to be “fixed.”
And lastly, and most importantly, I think it’s important to remind her of her worth in Christ, and how loved she is, despite our sins and shortcomings. God’s love is a “no-matter-what” situation.
Those in recovery carry around so much guilt and so much shame about their past, and being that source of encouragement and truth that God takes all of us and loves us unconditionally — that is something to just drill drill drill into her head, because though she may know that conceptually, actually believing it is something that takes years and years to fully embrace. Believe me, I know from personal experience.
So yeah — just your presence, and care and love — it goes a long way.
Piggybacking — What’s the best way to intervene with a loved one who may be showing signs of an ED?
With gentleness and kindness. Without judgement or criticism. With concern and honesty. In privacy and a one-on-one setting. Without presumption or accusation. With patience and a willingness to listen. With knowledge that she is probably going to lash out in anger or hurt. With love and compassion. With resources for professional help. With an offer of support and confidentiality.
It will be a difficult conversation. But one that needs to be had. Remember that love is not always soft.
My ED is telling me that I don’t deserve church and God and the community I have there. How do I restore my relationship with God post-ED?
This is definitely something I can relate with. Because I think when we go through something like an eating disorder, or addiction or alcoholism — we can take the guilt we feel for having gone through that, and for having put our loved ones through that — we can internalize that guilt, and come to believe that it wasn’t just our actions that were wrong, but that we, ourselves, as people, at our core are wrong, and disordered and bad.
We can put that guilt on ourselves, which then becomes shame. And that shame becomes a terrible filter through which we see the entire world, and situations, and ourselves, and our relationships — especially with God.
It took me a long time, but I had to realize that my eating disorder was one of the nails the Cross. That Jesus loved me in my broken state. He loved me as I was, in that moment — enough to die for. And to know that He willingly took up the Cross, knowing full well that I would have this season of destruction during my eating disorder, but He died to wipe that slate clean for me, and redeem me from my eating disorder — it broke through.
Keep dwelling on that truth — every morning, every day — until those walls are broken down. But just remember, that Jesus knows all of you, and loves every part of you, and your story — just as it is. Don’t let the ED win by staying away from Church and from God. After all, the voice of ED is really the voice of Satan, so of course he wants to keep you away from God. Don’t let him win. It’s your life. He’s trying to destroy it. Don’t give him that satisfaction.
How do you deal with anxiety over eating? How do you know if a big meal classifies as a binge?
One of the big hurdles of ED recovery is relearning how to a) listen to your body and to hunger cues. And b) what an appropriate portion size is.
During my disease, I had “normalized” portion sizes that were nutritionally and calorically inadequate — to put it mildly. So afterwards, I would feel like I was just eating a mountain of food, when in actuality, it was a “normal” portion size — I was just used to eating what my ED dictated as “safe” — which was next to nothing. So that readjustment can be mentally difficult.
But I will also say this…part of food freedom, is honoring your body’s hunger cues. And sometimes, that means that you will eat more food than normal. But that’s okay! Your body needed it! Perhaps you had a particularly active day, or your body needed some extra protein or iron. Or heck! Maybe it just tasted super delicious and you wanted an extra helping! That’s okay! It’s food freedom — and not every day will be exactly the same.
Binge eating involves regular episodes of compulsive, uncontrollable eating, past the point of comfort, for reasons other than hunger. It is its own eating disorder, and I’ve written more about that, here.
How do you stay strong during recovery?
Honestly – surrounding yourself with people who know, love, and care about you is so important. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and isolation. So creating a community of life-affirming loved ones is crucial.
For me, it has been so important to embrace life, and embrace people. During my eating disorder, I completely pushed the world away. I isolated myself, and didn’t return a phone call or a text message for two years. So the biggest thing for me in my recovery is to let people in. To say yes to opportunity, and adventure and friendship. And it has made such a huge difference. By doing so, it sends the subliminal message to my brain that, I am worth being known and being loved. And as someone who spent years and years not believing that – it affirms my recovery every day.
Practically speaking – I’ve completely ditched the scale. I don’t even own one. I don’t own a full-length mirror. I threw away those teeny-tiny clothes I wore during my anorexia. I really keep my focus off of the external, and instead make a conscious effort to everyday focus on my soul-health. I listen to worship music. Church sermons. I try to go to daily Mass as often as I can.
I would not have my recovery were it not for Jesus. And part of that sustained recovery comes from being in constant closeness with Him. — Through prayer, through the media I consume, through reading my bible or other Christian publications. And through Christ-centered relationships in my life.
Jesus reminds me who I am, and He fills my mind with the Truth so that I cannot hear the lies that the evil one tries to trip me up with.
So there you have it folks, some of the questions you sent in about recovery. I hope that these were helpful or insightful for you.
At the end of the day, we are what we think about. It’s as simple as that. So we need to constantly be seeking out Christ. He’s not going to force Himself on us, we have to make the choice to be in relationship with Him. And when we are consumed by His love, there’s no room for any other garbage that is flung our way.
I hope you have a beautiful Monday night — and I’ll talk to you all on Wednesday for a recipe, and Thursday for programming as usual!
Hugs and love xoxo
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
A big thank you to my foundational sponsor, BetterHelp Online Therapy. I cannot begin to express how beneficial therapy was for my recovery from anorexia. Speak with an online therapist. Or check out content about eating disorders from BetterHelp.
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