Free Audible Copy of “The Predatory Lies of Anorexia”

Guess What? My first book, “The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story” is now out in audible format! It’s available as such on Amazon, Audible.com and iTunes.

I’m giving away a few free copies of the audio version through Audible.com. Want a chance to listen to my book?

Comment here and share this post on Facebook for a chance to win! I’ll announce the winner on Sunday!

My book on Audible!

The Thorn in My Side

I was pretty stoked: God had given me an out! I had discovered the Bible verse that indicated anorexia was something I could struggle with my whole life.

Now, that sounds discouraging, but then, as someone who had fought the battle with anorexia for over a decade and continued to lose, it seemed like a welcome release. Perhaps I didn’t need to fight so hard, maybe this was something God had given me; my personal struggle. Maybe God wasn’t going to heal me or rescue me, maybe I could quit hoping and waiting and trying because this was just “my thing”.

Second Corinthians 12:6-10 says, “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

See, I thought, even Paul had something that he struggled with his whole life.

But as I prayed about this and tried to find the peace that proved I had found the solution to my struggle, it wasn’t there.

Paul’s thorn served a specific purpose. In the preceding verses, Paul says that the thorn was given to him to keep him from boasting in himself; it was not a random affliction such that “everyone has one”.

Paul had become an untimely apostle, having seen the risen Jesus after his ascension. After that, with many visions, his extensive schooling in The Law, his dual citizenship and rightful authority and notoriety as an evangelist, Paul had good reason to be proud. God gave him this “thorn” as a reminder that he was not self-sufficient and perhaps even as a physically humiliating attribute that kept others from idolizing him.

My eating disorder can never be compared to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. First, the Bible says that God tempts no one. I believe that my anorexic behaviors were evidence of idolatry—worshipping myself. God frequently commands us to have no god besides Him. He will not “give” me an idol.

Second, Paul closes this passage by saying that he rejoices in his weakness so that the power of Christ might rest on him. To resign myself to an eating disorder as simply “my thorn” does not express the power of Christ and honor Him as the supreme one and only God, as The Redeemer.

Indeed, my eating disorder kept me on my knees before Jesus, more aware daily of how much I need Him. However, His power is made evident in my surrender to Him, not in my resignation to anorexia.

This article was first published at FINDINGbalance.com

CS Lewis and Complete Freedom from Anorexia

I hereby designate C.S. Lewis “My Favorite Author”. But then, maybe by simply reading Predatory Lies, you figured that out before I did.

This morning, I got an email called, CS Lewis Daily. Never one to disappoint:

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.

It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.

When I was fighting for freedom from my eating disorder, I ran up against this conundrum.

Could I not retain “myself” or the habits I had established that afforded me some imaginary modicum of control?

Could I give up counting calories but continue obsessively exercising?

What if I was willing to get treatment, as long as I could weigh myself everyday?

Could I continue to pursue the self-centered desires of my heart and keep personal “happiness” as the great goal of my life and at the same time surrender my will, my life, my eternal salvation to a God that I claim to love and trust?

And this is what I found: Just like cutting the grass can keep it short, but will not produce real, nutritious wheat; managing aspects of my eating disorder might keep me alive but would never result in freedom.

To mature and blossom in freedom, I must necessarily uproot the  grass and allow Christ to remake me–to make all things new. The change must be complete, a destruction of the old to allow the new to take root and flourish.

Exposed! — And Why You Got an Eating Disorder (maybe)

When I’m exposed to good teaching, it’s difficult not to allow my cogitating to erupt in relative prose. How badly I want to convey the truths I’m learning but fear my attempts will be woefully inadequate. But alas, I’ve been exposed again and in my best efforts to internalize these truths, I’m going to try to explain them to you. And we’ll start right there…exposure.

Theres’s an old saying, “Children learn what they live.” I would modify that to, “Children learn what they are exposed to.”

In the realm of eating disorders, which I am most familiar with, it’s not uncommon to lay blame at the feet of modern media. While television, magazines and billboards cannot be held solely responsible, that logic does explain why eating disorders have become more prevalent in recent generations and why they are more frequently found in affluent societies. A quick look at most magazine covers, or a blitz through the channels, reveals that today our youth are constantly exposed to unrealistic, if not dangerously unhealthy images and ideas.

Our grandmothers were not exposed to Barbie’s bizarre dimensions. A girl’s sexuality was still considered sacred, not a bargaining chip for popularity, success and equality. Regarding sexuality, skin and bones was not considered sexually appealing—curves, soft edges, well-rounded hips and full-rosy cheeks were admired—not sallow complexions, hollow eyes and angular collar bones. History proves that we gravitate to, begin to approve and even see as normal the things that we are exposed to.

An example from close to home: A dear friend of mine, who struggles with an eating disorder, admitted to me that her earliest memories were of her mother’s self-imposed diets. Her mother’s voice still echoes in her head, repeating the familiar phrases, “I need to lose weight”, “If only I could look like her”, “That has too much fat”, “Well, I failed again.”

But there are other evidences of the power of exposure. Post-slavery in the south, many slaves had difficulty adapting to a life of freedom. They had never been exposed to freedom; or more accurately, they had only been exposed to captivity. How was freedom to be managed?

My niece is obsessed with the movie, Toy Story. Quite honestly, she never had a chance to consider other options. From the womb, she must have watched that movie 1000 times. It is her mother’s favorite, followed Monster’s Inc. Her frequent and limited exposure to a certain movie programmed her mind to accept it as the best. Even more so, because she has been so immersed in that movie, she naturally believes that everyone else has too—and that I too should know every character and phrase. Because of her exposure, she has assimilated a specific opinion of what is “normal” and “good”.

Is there a way to harness exposure and use it to our advantage? Particularly in the field of eating disorders, can exposure be a useful tool for recovery? I think so, however, my musings run contrary to some popular methods of treatment.

I was a treated at an inpatient facility for more than six months over three different stays at two separate locations. Without a doubt, I benefited greatly from the experts there and from the companionship and empathy of the other patients. However, just as we can be over-exposed to the elements causing dangerous side-effects like frostbite, sunburn, heatstroke or poison ivy, the dynamics of an inpatient facility create the possibility for over-exposure to eating disordered habits, unhealthy thought patters, unhealthy bodies—even too much empathy.
It isn’t hard to see how anorexic roommates at an inpatient facility can feed off of each other. Regardless of hours spent in therapy, the power of exposure shows that there is at least great potential for constant, continued exposure to others who are unhealthy as well, to perpetuate the problem. Of course, this logic should not be used to negate the importance of inpatient treatment centers. I mean only to consider all the possibilities.

After two moderately successful inpatient treatments stays, I relapsed—again. This time, I didn’t have the luxuries of money or time to return to a facility. For a while, I clung to life and sanity by my fingernails—by the grace of God. By His wisdom and mercy, He began to use the power of exposure to affect true healing in my life.

Slow, progressive exposure to the elements can deaden one’s awareness to the side effects. So too, as God applied to my life gentle, progressive exposure to health, life, moderation and joy I barely noticed the changes happening in my mind and body.

I remember a friend who struggled for many years with bulimia. She told me the story of her final, all-out effort to recover. Melissa asked a friend to go with her to a donut shop every single day. Every single day, Megan and her friend ate one donut and left. Through observing her friend and experiencing moderation herself, Melissa was repeatedly exposed to a new relationship with donuts—a previous binge food.

Exercise addiction was a huge component of my own eating disorder. In fact, after managing it for a time, I made a choice to expose myself to a new group of friends—a running club. There is nothing wrong with those people. They were wonderful, kind and fun to be with. However, the constant exposure to conversations about running, races, stopwatches, intervals and long Saturday runs warped my mind. In no time at all, I suffered from overexposure to an unhealthy pattern and found myself on the fast-track to relapse. Suddenly, due to that exposure, running an unprecedented number of miles each week became normal and good—my mental and physical default.

Fortunately for me, exposure worked again in reverse. We moved after about three years at that location. There was no running club in our new city. The streets near our home were not conducive to running and I didn’t know my way around the city to simply take off on my own (my proclivity to get lost helped me reduce my exposure even more).

Almost by accident, my running tapered off. Other habits began to take over, other forms of more moderate exercise began to seem normal. When I finally decided that I wanted to be well, I terminated my gym membership too. I recognized by then that constant exposure to the environment of a gym had negative effects on my pursuit of recovery.

Exposure to healthy influences has helped my recovery in other ways, too. I notice an increased sense of freedom around all types of foods after spending a week with my sister. Her enjoyment of food and intuitive response to hunger and fullness cues inspires and instructs me. When I cancelled my subscriptions to all of my health magazines, I immediately noticed a reduction in obsessive thoughts about diet, exercise and aspects of my physical appearance.

Traditional forms of treatment have their place, and in many cases (including my own) are absolutely necessary. However, in conjunction and perhaps most effectively, in the wake of inpatient treatment, intentional, concentrated exposure to healthy elements can be the difference between recovery and relapse.

Was, Is and Will Be

moving-forward-1445758-mIn March of last year, my parents threw a big party. It was a special event to show off their grandkids who live out of state and to celebrate the publication of my first book, The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. When they chose the date, no one realized that it would land neatly on top of the same weekend they began moving from the house they’ve lived in for seventeen years.

It was a bit maddening for my mother! Half of her life had already migrated to a new address, while she was expecting up to 80 guests at the old house! But, the dynamics created by the convoluted schedule were magical; it was in the chaos that I found redemption.

Part of moving is inevitably going through piles of old “stuff”—letters buried at the back of the desk and forgotten five years before, stuffed animals loved right out of their fur, photo albums lovingly created and abandoned on book shelves, paperbacks enjoyed once but not worth reading again, dusty silk flower arrangements, school year books, gymnastics trophies…but, among the mundane, we found precious things like blankets crocheted by Grandma and handmade baby dresses.

I plucked a photo album from the stack and flipped through the first several pages. My own face, barely recognizable stared back at me. There I was, sitting in this same room, ten Christmases past, a shell of myself, a skeleton of a woman. My eyes were haunted by dark gray shadows and ringed with fatigue. Though I must have been watching someone open a gift, there was no light in my eyes. I remember now, calculating how many calories were in that cinnamon roll my mother made me eat and wondering if anyone would notice if I left and went for a run.

God says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Praise Him that I am not so! Because He is, my was, is not my is. And my will be is even better.

One reason for the party was to celebrate the publication of my book. As I wrote the book, I effectively closed my “was” chapter, and stepped bravely into “is”. That weekend, plowing through my parents’ closets brought the differences between was and is into distinct contrast. I can see clearly what God has done to redeem my past.

Some things that marked this final stay in my parents’ old home as the dawning of a glorious is:

Every morning, I sat and sipped coffee with my Dad instead of leaving the house to go for a 20 mile run.

I took cat naps with my mother instead of fearing how many pounds I would accumulate while resting.

I looked at my baby pictures and thought, “I was adorable!” instead of despising my appearance.

I walked my mom’s dog and stopped to smell her neighbor’s flowers instead of trying to turn it into a power walk.

I ate some of my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies.

I didn’t fall asleep in church because my brain was starved for energy. Instead I relished the pastor’s sermon and lifted my hands in worship.

I didn’t overhear my parents discussing my illness in anxious, hushed tones.

All of these observances culminated on the Saturday afternoon of the party. Almost 80 of my parents’ friends poured through the house. These were people who had prayed for me and held my parents’ hands when I went to college, and when they received worried phone calls from my dorm supervisor. These people prayed for me even though they didn’t know me. These people knew my story, knew my family’s pain in the middle of my eating disorder and held us before the throne. These people are part of the reason I am here today.

Today is new. I am fuller, happier. I am free from fear of food and compulsory exercise. Today, I see the world as so much bigger than myself. Thank God that I am not the same as I was.

And even more glorious? I’m the not same as I will be. God has promised that I cannot conceive of the good things He has planned for me. He has promised that one day I will behold the face of my Savior and I will be like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). He has promised me a future and hope.

Last year, I recognized redemption. One weekend was a microcosm of the span of my life and I can see clearly how God redeemed me. It is in that context that I am more excited than ever, more grateful than ever that God has redeemed my soul. I love is and new, I am joyful now, but I am ever so excited about what will be.

Questions:

What is one evidence that Christ has made your life new? How is your “is” different than your “was”? Can you use this to share the Gospel with others?
2. Are you still struggling with the guilt and fears of “was”? What do you think you need to truly feel new?
3. If you let your imagination run, what do you think “will be” will look like?