Starving to be Beautiful

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This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. I have shared a little about my history with disordered eating, but I want to share more in hopes that this will help you if you’re struggling with an ED, or if you know someone who is.

 

Over the past several months I have felt the Lord prompting me to share more of my recovery story, and the invaluable things I’ve learned, along with the helpful resources I’ve found. In the next few posts, I want to tell you about what my journey looked like, how I got better, how to support someone struggling with an ED, and what resources and action plans I recommend utilizing.

 

Trying to find comprehensive Christian resources for ED recovery during my healing process was difficult and frustrating. EDs are first and foremost mental, emotional, and spiritual, and the physical aspect, though serious, is a symptom of the internal battle. The church does not address this topic enough, and I am concerned that the number of people with eating disorders will continue to grow unless we proactively support people (particularly young women) in the ways they need to be supported in order to avoid developing EDs in the first place.

 

***Note: I believe it is completely possible for a person to recover from an ED even if he or she does not believe in God. There is plenty of proof and transformation stories on the internet to back this up. However, I also believe the deepest level of life healing someone can experience comes only through Jesus Christ.

Additionally, I have heard the claim that you cannot fully recover from an ED. This was a big fear of mine during recovery, but it is a LIE that I want to dispel right now. Full recovery can take many months or years depending on the circumstances and the approach, but it is possible and, 100% worth it. Furthermore, the belief that full recovery is impossible is a dangerous belief that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.***

 

Left: 5 years ago when I was punishing myself with exercise about 20 hours per week, eating a vegan diet, calorie restricting, hating myself, weighing myself everyday, and focusing on having the “perfect” body. No real sense of identity, a shell of a person.

Right: Recovered physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I enjoy exercise when I have the time, and I don’t starve or binge. I eat whatever I want, as much as I want, whenever I’m hungry. My weight is stable, and I rarely think about it or weigh myself.  I love myself and my body, and I know who I am. My focus is on loving God and loving others.

 

My battle with an ED started 6 years ago after serious heartbreak, which lead me to realize I had lost almost all sense of my identity. In an effort to deal with feelings of worthlessness, heartbreak, and fear, I decided to lose weight. I believed the lie that weight loss (from my already slender frame) would lead to happiness, love, and a feeling of worthiness. I began to meticulously count calories and would only let myself eat 40% of the calories recommended for someone at my age, weight, and activity level. Within a short period of time, I quickly dropped lots of weight, along with the remaining sense of identity I had left. All I could think about was food and being skinny.

 

Underweight with very little fat or muscle, I was constantly freezing and would wear multiple sweatshirts layered upon one another. While I was a dancer and used to being active, suddenly just walking up a flight of stairs left my heart pounding and my lungs burning for oxygen. My legs and arms became very thin. I would look in the mirror multiple times a day to make sure I could see my ribs protruding. Seeing the number drop on the scale gave me a high that was further perpetrated by the praise of well-meaning but oblivious dance teachers. I lost my period, and would not regain a regular menstrual cycle until 4 years later.

 

After months of starvation, my body desperately wanted food. Over the holidays, to my absolute horror, I lost all sense of control, and binged constantly. Within a couple weeks, I regained all the weight I had lost over the past several months. In reality, most of this was water weight, but I didn’t know that. I vowed to lose the weight again and keep it off forever.

 

My willpower for counting calories began to dissipate, so my next approach was to eat a few extra hundred calories per day, but to eat very “clean,” and exercise like crazy. I was a vegetarian since I was 9 or 10 years old, but during this time I began to cut out cheese and eggs so that I was essentially eating a vegan diet. A typical week consisted of 10+ hours of dance along with about 10 additional hours of exercise. All this while eating very little. Looking back, I’m shocked that I exercised so much with so little food. EDs create a feeling of anxious energy and euphoria in the body, which were the fumes I was running on.

 

Around this time I got my wisdom teeth removed. High on pain killers about an hour after surgery, I frantically fought with my mom to let me get off of the couch and exercise. I was wild with fear that I would gain a pound if I did not maintain my exercise routine. Thankfully, my mom was able to calm me down and get me to rest.

 

Even though I exercised like an addict, I secretly hated exercise, and only did it because I was so desperate to have the “perfect” body. I had always loved dance, but I began to deeply despise it. Dance was exhausting me, and being in front of floor to ceiling mirrors wearing a leotard, and critiquing and perfecting my technique, was too much for my already overly-critical ED.

 

As the stress of overexercising and under-eating took its toll on my body, I began to binge on food. If you have never binge eaten, let me tell you: it is a scary feeling. It’s like a switch flips, and all of the sudden you disassociate and just eat and eat and eat. Even when you are full and feel like you will throw up, you just keep eating and you feel like you cannot stop. This was incredibly humiliating and scary for me, because I prided myself on having rigid control over my body. I continued to exercise to try to offset the effects of the binges. In reality, the calories from the binges would have gone to support my organs that were being starved, and not to my waistline like I feared.

 

One evening, after I had eaten way too many sweets at a party, I came home feeling absolutely ill and gross in my mind and body. I was stuffed and just wanted to throw up. “What a great idea,” I thought,  “I can just throw up this food, feel better, and not have to deal with the calories.” As I kneeled before the toilet in my bathroom, I leaned over to purge everything I had just consumed. Suddenly, it was as if someone grabbed me. I clearly heard the Lord say “Stop. Don’t do this. If you do this, you will only continue to do it, and your eating disorder will only get worse.”

 

I had a choice in that moment, and looking back, I truly believe that the choice I made that day was one of the most important I made during my illness. I chose not to throw up. If I had gone ahead and done it, I think my story and path to healing would have looked very different and been much longer and more difficult.

 

Trembling and desperate, I went downstairs and began telling my parents what was going on. While they suspected my unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, they had no idea the extent to which I was hurting myself.

 

This began a path to healing. My healing had excruciating weeks filled with relapses into bingeing and restricting, and weeks when I had very little problems at all. It was a process that took almost 4 years of fighting, but it was worth it, no question. I am eternally grateful for the Lord’s steadfast love and patience, and for the people he placed around me who supported me with the utmost love and long suffering.

 

In my next post I will share how I recovered, along the physical and non-physical steps that are required to move toward complete recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peace Like a River (pt. 2)

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This is part two of a two-part series on peace. You can read part one here.

When do you feel most at peace?

Have you ever felt a lack of peace, even though your situation is actually very peaceful?

Beth Moore shares this great perspective on peace:

“I believe peace comes in situations completely surrendered to the sovereign authority of Christ. Sometimes when we finally give up trying to discover all the answers to the whys in our lives and decide to trust the sovereign God, unexpected peace washes over us like a summer rain. We sometimes lack peace in far less strenuous circumstances because we are not as desperate or likely to turn them over to God.” source

Have you ever experienced this peace paradox?  I know I have.

In the midst of work and a full load of classes, I’ve seen the power of God’s peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) despite what can be quite stressful circumstances.

At the same time, I have also had times in life where I am not very busy at all, and yet my peace level runs dangerously low.

One of my most favorite paintings is Miranda (The Tempest) by John William Waterhouse

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I see this painting as a beautiful metaphor for peace. In this image, although chaos swirls around Miranda, she appears to be standing steadfast and at peace on solid ground.

Regardless of whether or not your circumstances are peaceful, you can still be at peace.

We all have things that test our peace. Thankfully, we can choose how we deal with these things.

I’ve found that taking time to get up early in the morning to saturate myself with God’s word, to pray, and to surrender my day to God, makes all the difference. Without submitting to God and letting him direct my life, I am much more likely to turn to worry before I turn to him.

Sure, getting up early in the morning may cause me to be more tired than if I had gotten 30 extra minutes of sleep.

But, I can promise you that being a little extra tired with a mind renewed by God’s Word and rejuvenated by spending time with him, is so much better than being well-rested and anxious/stressed/worried. 

(If you can be well-rested and have time to spend in God’s Word, that’s even better!)

Finally, I love what Pastor and author John Bevere writes:

“The intimacy God wants to share with us increases as we release to Him our unmet needs and our expectations of others and ourselves. It occurs by degrees as we surrender our mind, emotions, and will to Him. It occurs in obedience to His will as we look to Him moment by moment for inspiration and accept His equipping and His empowerment. He intends that His grace should infuse every aspect of our lives.” source

I encourage you to delve more into this intimacy with God. Enjoying his presence and surrendering your needs and fears to him brings amazing peace and strength even in the most trying times.

 

 

Peace Like a River (pt. 1)

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(source)

Many have said this before, and I will say it again:

Your circumstances do not have the power to determine your peace unless you let them.

Isaiah 48:18 says

“If only you had paid attention to my commands,

your peace would have been like a river,

your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

In response to this, Beth Moore writes:

“God’s Word doesn’t say peace like a pond. If we were honest, we might admit to thinking of peaceful people as boring. We may think, I’d rather have an exciting life! Beloved, few bodies of water are more exciting than rivers! When was the last time you saw white-water rapids? We can have active, exciting lives without suffering through a life of turmoil. To have peace like a river is to have security and tranquility while meeting the many bumps and unexpected turns on life’s journey. Peace is submission to a trustworthy Authority, not resignation from activity.(source)

Preach!

As someone who loves excitement, but also craves safety and security, I see this as an amazingly refreshing way to look at peace.

1 Peter 5:7 exhorts, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

What an amazing God we have!  1 Peter doesn’t say, “Give all your worries and cares to God, because he says so” or “because that’s the right thing to do.”  No, 1 Peter says that we should give our worries to God because he cares about us.

I don’t know about you, but I find it so much easier to share my thoughts, feelings, worries, and cares with someone when I trust them and I know they truly love and care about me.

Maybe you know that God cares about you more than anyone else, as his word says. Maybe you know you can trust him, but still you find yourself shying away from surrendering your worries to him.

From what little I know, I would say that it’s because a habit hasn’t been built of being in a constant relationship with God where you share those worries, and ask for his peace.

Being in a relationship with God is not exactly the same as being in a relationship with a human being, but it does still require that we invest time and effort, and build trust.

We know we can trust God, but do we live as though we can?

Just like we can know exercise is healthy, but still not do it, cognitively, we may know that God is trustworthy and loving, and that we can cast our cares on him, but still not put that into practice.

Hebrews 4:16 says

“Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.”

We need God.

John 14:26 says that God’s Spirit is the Comforter. We need God’s mercy and grace to help us surrender our cares to his comfort and direction.

Today I encourage you to take some time to pray.  If any worries, negative thoughts, or anxieties come up, talk to God about them.  Surrender them to him, and know that he cares for you.

He is the most perfect father/counselor/friend/comforter you can ever know!

The Secret to Thriving: The Importance of Gratitude

As I enter into the last couple weeks of this school year, I am reminded of the importance of gratitude.

 

Here is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gratitude:

 

*Gratitude: the state of being grateful; thankfulness.*

 

I love this quote about gratitude:

 

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
― Alphonse Karr

 

In “thorny” times, times of stress or hardship, gratefulness enables us to better thrive and survive.

 

I can complain that I have a huge number of final projects coming up that seem impossible to complete, and that right now I’m sitting in my bed writing this because I’m sick with some sort of cold.  Or, I can rejoice!  (No, I’m not crazy!)

 

I can rejoice because I have the opportunity to go to school, to live in New York City, to show how much I’ve learned over the past semester, and to learn how to better discipline myself in time management so I can get enough sleep and not get sick.

 

One of my business professors said something really profound:

 

“The hard things shout at us, but the daily blessings and gifts whisper.”

 

She went on to say, that “when we approach conflict (and other hard situations) with gratitude instead of anger, we can be grateful that we are solid in Christ no matter what the outcome.”

 

Proverbs 16:24 says,

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

 

Gratefulness enables us to fight against negativity, and to strengthen ourselves with joy and positivity.  It gives life to our bones, and to people around us.

 

Life is not easy.  Sometimes it seems downright cruel (just watch or read all the horrible stories in the news), but we have the power to choose how we respond to and think about the things that happen to us.

 

In addition to this, we have a God who dearly loves us and empathizes with us.  Hebrews 4:15-16 declares:

 

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

Today, I encourage you to think about at least three things that you are thankful for, and leave a comment to proclaim that gratefulness.  If you want a bigger challenge, think of three things to be grateful for that are directly related to a hard situation in your life.

 

This week, I pray that you experience the power of gratefulness!

3 Steps to Resolve Conflict

In a conflict with someone else, there is nothing quite as refreshing as realizing that you both want to work it out and find a mutually beneficial solution to the situation.

 

When both parties are seeking to come to a healthy resolution, making sure you both are staying calm, and checking to make sure that you aren’t turning to unhealthy ways of handling conflict, then you can proceed to coming to a resolution!

 

The three stages of conflict resolution outlined in EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook are:

 

1. Understand Each Other’s Point of View

 

The first step is to create mutual understanding.

 

This is usually the most uncomfortable stage because it requires vulnerability and sacrificial love in order to hear what the other person is saying, and recognize their underlying feelings and beliefs.

 

Active/reflective listening is so important in this stage!  While you may know how to listen quite well, the other person may have never learned how to reflectively listen.

 

You can help them listen empathetically out by asking things like “What do you think I’m saying?” or “How do you think I feel about that?” after they have listened to your perspective.

 

If they correctly understand what you are trying to communicate, then ask them to identify your requests with questions such as “What do you think I am asking you to do?” or “What do you think my bottom line is?”

 

Asking questions like these is a fantastic way to nudge someone to actively listen to you when they aren’t or don’t know how to listen in a reflective way.

 

But keep in mind that you also need to listen to them with empathy and identify their requests!

 

2. Identify Shared Needs/Issues

 

In this stage, the goal is to find common ground.

 

The first step takes time, and you should not move on to this step if either of you does not yet feel understood or truly want resolution.

 

The first step deals with surface-level concerns, and this step deals with the underlying motivations of those concerns.

 

If a husband and wife are arguing over how to donate and/or invest their money, the underlying shared common ground might be that they both want to wisely steward the resources that God has given them.

 

The ways in which they understand wise stewardship just differ.  In this step it’s good to take time to understand and honor each other’s felt needs and take time to summarize both sides.

 

3. Identify Underlying Motivations

 

When we identify underlying motivations of both parties, then we can better understand one another’s hidden motivators.  “Underlying motivations are the core values or needs that each party is trying to satisfy.” (Source)

 

In the previous example about the couple’s finances, the differing perspectives on how to honor God with finances most likely comes from differing underlying motivators.

 

The wife may have grown up in the midst of financial poverty due to parents who did not manage money well.  To her, wisely stewarding and honoring God with finances may be actually saving and investing finances so that they have money saved to use for necessities, emergencies, and special purchases.

 

On the other hand, the husband may have grown up with parents that really emphasized giving a portion of their finances to the poor as a way to serve others and honor God.

 

Neither are wrong in their approach and motivations.  They just need to brainstorm some “win-win” solutions.

 

Then they can choose a solution and implement it.  If that solution doesn’t work after a period of time, then they can adjust their plan until they find one that works well for both of them.

 

Source

The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.  I highly recommend taking this class because there is so much valuable information that cannot be properly communicated outside the hands-on in-class interaction.

*Note: The newest editions of their books and classes on this topic are called Redeeming Conflict, but their website still says Confronting Conflict.*

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/

 

Conflict Resolution Readiness

When it comes to actively addressing conflict in a healthy way, it is important to know that “all you can do is what you can do,” and it will not always be possible for you to make everyone happy. (source)

That’s ok though.

Making people feel happy is not your responsibility or burden to carry.

Once you deal with managing your stress before further engaging in a conflict situation, then you can begin to engage in the fun and gritty part of conflict: conflict resolution!

Source

EMI’s Redeeming Conflict class uses Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” to show that in conflict, we need to be both innocent and shrewd.

Being innocent means being loving and considerate and assuming the best of the person/people with whom you are in conflict.  Being shrewd means “considering the relational stance the other party is taking toward you.” (source)

In a perfect world, everyone would be sacrificially loving like Christ.  But the hard reality is that if you aren’t loving and kind toward those you are in conflict with, you cannot expect them to be loving and kind toward you.

On the other hand, people still may try to take advantage of you, argue for arguing’s sake, or act aggressively or passive-aggressively toward you, without any desire for resolution.

That is where bing shrewd comes into play.

When you are shrewd, or have “discerning awareness,” as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it, then you pay attention to how the other person is responding, and gauge whether or not engaging in conflict resolution is even worthwhile.

In some situations, the people you are in conflict with may really not want to resolve the conflict, unless they get to “win,” or the resolution is to their own selfish advantage.

When the other person does not really want to seek mutual agreement and benefit, it is healthiest to simply manage the situation instead of resolve it.

It is not possible to resolve conflict with someone who does not want to resolve it.

Managing conflict when resolving it is not an option requires you to remain respectful and loving and not let yourself get flooded by stress chemicals.

If you show mercy, refuse to blame yourself,  and refuse to villainize, rescue, or make demands of the other person you are in conflict with, but they are not willing to work toward resolution, then you will need to manage the conflict.  At this point it is best to take a step back put up some stronger boundaries.  See a good resource on boundaries here.

Keeping a relationship at all costs is not always healthy, and sometimes separation is the healthiest option.

However, usually you will have conflict situations that can be resolved, and I will talk about some steps that can be used to go about this in my next post!

Source

The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

*Note: The newest editions of their books and classes on this topic are called Redeeming Conflict, but their website still says Confronting Conflict.*

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/

Recognizing & Managing Stress

Do you have certain practices that help you when you feel stressed or overwhelmed?

In my last post I talked about the importance of having practices in place so that when we begin to feel stressed due to conflict, we can manage that stress, and not become overwhelmed with a survival response.

When we are able to manage this, then our minds and emotions are more stable and able to address whatever conflict issue is at hand.

For personalities who tend to react like the “lion” personality, it can be very obvious when they have a stress response, because they tend to be outwardly vehement and angry, and even physically abusive.

Source

If you tend to react this way, you may be familiar with a feeling of pumping adrenaline or a growing sense of rage that begins before an outburst.  These sensations can be great signs to alert you to take a step back from the situation, and go do something else for a little while.

The other personalities don’t tend to get as visibly agitated in the face of conflict, but they can and do get flooded with stress response chemicals just as much as the more verbal and angry “lion” responders.

The “opossum” personality’s tendency toward victimization can overwhelm them with just as strong of an anger that the lion personality experiences.

Source

However, their response, when overwhelmed with stress and conflict is usually to succumb to what can be debilitating depression, self-pity, and/or passive-aggressiveness.

A big indicator that this is happening is when negative and depressive thoughts suddenly begin to overwhelm the mind.  Taking a walk and spending time listening to scripture, or even writing out their feelings as a way to get them outside of their mind, are some steps that this personality can take to better deal with stressful conflict in relationships.

Renewing the mind can be a huge help for this response to stress, because the “opossum”  tends to respond to conflict stress by holding the stress in and not letting it out in a significant way.

The “rabbit” personality response also tends to be less aggressive and less obvious as well.

Source

Because this type tends to withdraw and run away in response to conflict, things like drinking too much, bingeing on food, starving oneself, abusing drugs, or turning to other addictive substances or practices may be what this type utilizes to deal with stress.

If you have this type of response to conflict, feelings of insatiable cravings for things that are not healthy, or not healthy in the amounts that you crave them, are often indicators that you may need to take a break from a conflict situation and de-stress.

Taking a moment to physically kneel down and pray, take a walk, or take a shower are a great way to get yourself away from tempting and addicting coping substances.

Watching TV (when used wisely, and not as your constant go-to) can also be very helpful in distracting and calming yourself until the stress response begins to go away.

Finally, talking with someone who is not involved in the situation, and who will listen and respond wisely is an excellent way to stay connected with community and not make yourself emotionally unavailable (and thus more prone to addictive tendencies).

The final conflict personality type, the “deer.”  If you tend to react like the deer – freezing up – then there are a few indicators that you may need to take a step back from a conflict situation when it gets too stressful.

Source

Feelings of panic, fear, trouble breathing, or digestive distress are important indicators that you should take a step back from dealing with conflict, and de-stress first.  Talking to someone who can encourage you and help you calm down is a great first step.

Renewing the mind, taking a relaxing bath, or listening to calming music are also good ways to reduce your stress.

Ultimately, renewing your mind and taking time to pray is the best way to help stop yourself from becoming emotionally overstressed.

It is so important to hold on to hope in every conflict situation, and to know that no matter what happens, God has a hope and future for you.

What practices do you have that help you de-stress in a healthy way?

I’d love to hear them!

 

Source

The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

https://www.equippingministries.org/product-category/confronting-conflict-2/