A Journey With An Eating Disorder by Alyssa Bethke
I had an eating disorder for six years. Anorexia was the name of my game. I never threw up – I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and it never got so bad that I had to be put in a rehab center, but it plagued me for years. You never would have known. I mean, you may have known if you were familiar with eating disorders, and if you spent any time with me during mealtimes. But I loved Jesus. I was a leader in the church and on my school campus. I prayed, I read God’s Word and I trusted Him. And yet when it came to my body, somehow, I had separated it from my soul…or so I thought. In reality, that separation was destructive to myself and to others. It wreaked havoc on my heart, my mind and my soul, and it broke others’ hearts around me.
It’s so easy to compare our bodies to other women’s bodies, especially those of celebrities and others on social media.
Why can’t I look like them?
Why can’t I lose the weight like she did? How does she do it?
It’s nothing new. Same struggle. Same lies being thrown at us. And we have to fight our thoughts. For me, that’s daily. I daily have to turn it over to the Lord. I daily have to tell myself the truth of who I am in Him, and remind myself that God’s truth prevails. Yeah, I do want to get rid of some of these pregnancy rolls, but the truth is that God loves me, that He gave me a body to live in – not to starve or diet to death. And now more than ever, I realize that how I view food and my body affects others.
The other day I was walking my dog and pushing my five-month-old in a stroller, and I caught myself starting to open that dark door again. I just want to lose some weight around my middle. And my thighs. And my butt. I’ll walk now. Then tomorrow I’ll do my workout videos. Maybe I should cut out sweets? Or just add some vegetables at dinner? Maybe no more eating out…
“No, I won’t do this. I’m not going there. Lord, I need You.”
I stopped and cried out to God. No, I wasn’t going to go down that path. I wasn’t going to start planning my food for the rest of the day, or put myself through a strict plan, or give into the lies about areas of my body I don’t like and wish were different. That’s exactly what Satan wanted me to do, but I knew it was toxic. That wouldn’t lead to life, but rather to death.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how he pleaded with God to remove a thorn in his flesh several times, but God didn’t do it. We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was. Paul calls it a “messenger of Satan to harass me.” Why in the world would God not remove it? Paul was crying out, pleading with God to remove something that was not of Him.
Eating, along with my body image, is one of my thorns in the flesh. That and anxiety. Super fun, right? This is my thing. Not to say that I don’t sin and struggle in other ways, because I totally do. But eating and my body image, and all that goes along with it, often seems to be a struggle for me. I’m not identified by my past eating disorder, but it is a big part of my story that still affects me. I may always struggle in this area, but God has brought healing and freedom in this area of my life, and I continue to grow in it daily.
I can agree with Paul that God says, 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
My awareness of how easily I could fall into this trap again makes me rely on His grace, and it makes me empathetic toward other women who struggle with the same thing. I won’t tell you to just get over it, because I know it’s not something you “just get over.” I get it. I’m right there with you. I’m clinging to God’s grace and power, and that’s all I have. But it’s sufficient.
He’s right there with me. He is the Victor. My hope is in Him.
Identity plays a huge part in our relationships. How you view yourself will flow into every relationship you have, especially a romantic one. Often guys wonder, Am I good enough? and girls wonder, Am I worthy? If those questions aren’t rooted in Jesus and what He says about you, then they can bring some heavy baggage into a relationship. They can cause you to feel like you constantly have to prove yourself, or devastate you when you mess up or fail. They can cause you to be manipulative or clingy, or perhaps even lead to an eating disorder. What questions do you ask yourself late into the night, and what answers are you feeding your soul? Lies? Or truth?
Alyssa is the author of Love That Lasts: How We Discovered God’s Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex with her husband Jeff. She is a mother to two little toddlers, Kinsley and Kannon. And she also enjoys writing and encouraging young women.