Bulimia in Control
50 years. 600 months. 18,000 days. That’s how long bulimia has been in my life. Can you imagine? For decades, my life was a vicious circle of destructive beliefs about myself, harmful responses to those beliefs, and toxic emotions. To the world, I was an energetic and friendly face, always positive and stable. Inside, I was depressed, angry, negative and out-of-control.
The “recipe” for my eating disorder (ED) has three powerful ingredients. The first is this: For many years, I believed that the value of my life was minimal – I felt worthless. From early childhood, I believed I was unwanted and not feminine enough. I had an aching “hunger” to feel loved.
When you add ingredient two, my unhealthy responses to this, trouble begins. I tried to cope with my harmful beliefs through food. Initially, I equated eating with love and ate plenty to get my “food love”, especially at family gatherings. By my teenage years, food became the enemy when I declared my body to be repulsive. Whether I was rigidly controlling food or over-indulging, my ED was the most relentless coping tool I used to deal with stress and painful emotions. And guess what? The more I used ED behaviors to feel valued, the more worthless I felt.
All of this was progressively damaging my relationships. I blamed others for my feelings and actions. I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t give me what I wanted so I could feel valued. What was the matter with them??!! In time, anger, fear and bitterness took hold of my heart. These toxic emotions are the final ingredient in understanding my long-term eating disorder.
What did my ED look like? I won’t go into graphic details. There were two contrasting sides to my bulimia: Hyper-rigid eating and vigorous exercise, versus reckless abandon with food. In the hyper-rigid phase, usually a diet, I became precise in my small portions and spent an unbelievable amount of time reading labels, searching for “bad” food ingredients. Exercise was timed and frequent. I could not tolerate breaking my exercise and food rules.
The reckless abandon side was large quantities of food, consumed very quickly, in a short period of time. The overconsumption would often be followed by “exercise punishment” to get rid of the calories. That was my form of purging. Again, I was coping with stress and painful emotion.
The reckless abandon would in time swing back to hyper-control. This was my pattern for decades: too little, too much, too little, and around and around in a dizzying cycle.
Repeated punishing exercise caused chronic damage to my achilles tendons and my lower esophagus. I’ve been to the moon and back on my treadmill.
Just to show you how abnormal my thinking had become, I’d need to drop a dress size to earn a holiday. And a bout of the flu was actually a bit exciting …. I could lose weight quickly. During one period of my life, work colleagues thought I might have a terminal illness, my appearance was so unhealthy.
I wasn’t feeding myself normally. As you can probably tell, it was never about food and physical hunger. Disordered eating was a symptom of deep emotional hunger.
Here Comes God!
Thankfully, my story doesn’t end there! I’m going to tell you how God intervened and how He’s still healing me.
I know the exact moment that I sensed God entering my life. Now in my late 40s, I was sitting at the dining room table, weeping over what had become of me. I cried out “Help Me!” but I didn’t know who I was crying out to. Almost immediately, I felt peaceful and sensed a strong urging in my thoughts to go – RIGHT AWAY – and get a book about God. Could it be God behind the urging? Well, I got the book about God and read it in record time. I was feeling hopeful. By the time I finished the book, there was no doubt in my mind the urging was God and He was answering my cry for help. Psalm 116:1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
I started thinking about God every day and soon I found myself reading more books about Him and even enjoying Christian music. I used to think that was weird. I started going to church again and realized this wasn’t a fleeting thing, God and Me. He had my attention.
Then I met Dave, the man who would later become my husband. Dave and other people at his church explained how important it is to read and understand the Bible. It’s important because the Bible is God’s message to us written through many different authors. Through Bible studies, I learned four key pieces of God’s amazing plan for all of us. God was taking me to the next level with Him.
First, I learned that ALL people do things that displease God and that these actions are called “sin”. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Sin keeps us from having a relationship with God because He’s perfect and we’re doing what WE want, rather than what God knows is best for us. And what we do is often really….. sinful. Before, I never thought of myself as being sinful. Maybe people who committed crimes were sinful, but not me! Learning about sin showed me that my disordered eating, anger, fear and bitterness were all displeasing to God.
Second, I discovered that God loves us so much He sent His only son, Jesus, to restore our relationship with Him that is broken because of sin. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by dying for them. Through Jesus, we are forgiven! No one had ever shown that kind of love for me before.
I was even more blown away by the third piece. I learned why Jesus was brought back to life. Because of His resurrection, death is overcome! We can live for eternity in Heaven with God beyond our death – if we believe in Jesus and ask forgiveness for our sin. Essentially, He rescues us from the “death penalty”! Considering my past, it was such a relief to learn that going to Heaven is through believing in Jesus, not by doing good deeds! Heaven is God’s gift to us through Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.
The fourth key would tie all the others together and bring me to a crossroads in my new connection with God. I was surprised to learn that I would need to personally ask Jesus to come into my life to have forgiveness of sin and eternal life after death.
My Best Decision – Ever
We read in the Bible these words: John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”. Do you hear the essence of God’s promise there? God gives us Jesus as our way to eternal life and being saved from eternal separation from Him. But we need to believe in Jesus. And “believing” is a personal action. God invites us to be in relationship with Him by having faith in Jesus, and we must say “yes” or “no” ….. ourselves.
God reached out in my time of need and was offering me the most jaw-dropping gift I could “never imagine”! I made the choice to accept God’s love and promise of Heaven by declaring my belief in Jesus and being sorry for my sins. That will always be my greatest turning point in life!
God In Control – My Hope And Help For Conquering Disordered Eating
When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we receive God’s Holy Spirit to renew us. Titus 3:5-6 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”.
For me, this rebirth and renewal means changing my beliefs about myself and dealing with bulimia and toxic emotions. God first of all showed me that I have an eating disorder. I had no clue! Very soon after, I sought treatment. My head now knew about ED. God and I were getting to the root of my wounded heart. He showed me that holding onto fear, anger and bitterness had prevented me from receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. My heart had been too full of toxic emotions to find Jesus. I rely on the Holy Spirit’s power now to continue releasing longstanding fear, anger and bitterness. These emotions no longer drive me.
In our wholly-satisfying God, I can trust that I am loved and my life has worth. If our Creator God says so, it IS so. I know and believe my true identity in Christ – I am loved and forgiven. He is able to satisfy my emotional and spiritual hungers because He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Which is more than I can say for the many fleeting and unsatisfying substitutes for Jesus that I’ve tried over the years. His love and promises can sustain me, no matter what my life circumstances.
But temptation to resort to old coping habits still surfaces. When I have slipped, it’s because I chose to meet my needs outside of Him and didn’t seek His Spirit’s power to help me. But the slipping is extremely rare now. I am assured and comforted by one of my favourite Bible verses in John 15:5. Jesus says of Himself “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. He is the Vine who nourishes me – the branch – when I hunger for Him, stay close to Him, and speak to Him often. He is faithful to me today, just as He was when I called out for help those many years ago. Thank you, Jesus!