Here is an excerpt from the book, Living Full, that I wrote this past summer for my senior capstone. I look forward to sharing more with you as I finish up the editing process.
A note from my journal on April 28, 2018, NYC:
I was in the bathroom getting ready. I felt a heavy sense of loneliness, depression, something trying to fill my thoughts. I commanded any oppressive spirit to leave in the name of Jesus. Immediately I felt better.
I randomly asked God: “What is the mission you have for me?”
Then I felt the Lord speak to me: “To bring freedom to my daughters.”
He led me: “Go look out your window” (I was a little caught off guard, but I went to the other end of my apartment to look out the window). “Do you see that building? What does it look like?”
“It’s black and shiny,” I replied.
G: “Yes, it is dark from the outside and it looks like it’s empty. But that is an illusion. There are things and people going on, but the outside world doesn’t see that.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
G: “What do you think it means?”
R: “Maybe it’s a metaphor for my life when fear controls it? And for other women’s lives?”
G: “Yes. The light can’t shine because the window shades are drawn. I’m trying to do/ I’m doing something on the inside of each one of my daughters, but people on the outside can’t see it because the fear controlling my daughters doesn’t allow my light to shine. The shades need to be opened and the windows cleaned.”
A journal entry from May 31, 2018, Ohio:
Something I sensed the Lord speaking to me while I was in prayer:
I need you. I need you to help set my daughters free from this. Eating disorders tear apart women’s friendships, relationships, marriages, spirits, souls, and bodies. It prevents them from experiencing true intimacy, because they are so focused on themselves, and afraid of not being a certain way for others. So much so, that they forfeit their sense of identity for a number on a scale. They trade being truly known for the applause of the world. But that demon of an eating disorder will never be satisfied, even after the body is destroyed to its very last muscle and organ. It is not satisfied until the woman is completely destroyed and rendered ineffective and incapacitated, so that she will never be a threat to the darkness, because she has surrendered herself to the hands of destruction, and is locked in its grasp.
This is not who I have called my daughters to be. I have called them to be warriors of wisdom and grace. To be a light to the world. To influence the world through love, power, and peace. The world will listen to powerful women who walk in those attributes. But the enemy has used the world to lie and say a woman will only be listened to and valued if she looks a particular way. If she can make men drool over her, if she can be promiscuous, if she can be the “perfect woman.” There is no one perfect woman. I have created everyone differently. What is beautiful to me is the sensitive spirit I have placed in each one of my daughters, and the gift they have to powerfully change and influence things through gentleness and humility. There is much darkness coming. I do not say this to scare you. I say it to excite you. Although you will be tempted to be afraid, do not give in to the temptation. Incredible light is also coming, for the light cannot be seen for what it truly is, until darkness descends upon it.
To the dear reader who is about to embark on this book,
We are tremendously blessed to live in the times and places that we do. However, while we live in an age of tremendous prosperity, there also exists ridiculous amounts of darkness and confusion. Like he did with Esther, God has placed you in such a time as this.
This may sound harsh, but I mean it in the must loving way: it is unacceptable for you to be living in bondage to disordered eating, body dysmorphia, or exercise addiction. God created you to live in fullness of life, in deep intimate relationship with him, in life-giving friendships with other people, and in peace with your own body and mind. It is unacceptable for disordered eating to continue to torment you. It needs to leave, so you can be free!
Eating disorders are often rooted in deep trauma, anger, pride, vanity, or shame. Jesus did not die for you to live in bondage. He died for you to be free in spirit, soul, and body. I want you to walk in this freedom, and I believe you can, because of the great love, grace, and power of Jesus. I ask you to believe this as well. Romans 10:9-10 declares, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (NIV). The word “saved” here is from the Greek word sótéria, which means welfare, prosperity, deliverance, preservation, salvation, and safety. Jesus came to give us abundant life, and the enemy tries very hard to steal that from us (John 10:10).
Hebrews 12:1-3 says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Getting freedom from disordered eating is no easy journey, but once you overcome it, you will walk in great freedom and authority, and deeper relationship with God and other people. While disordered eating is not from the Lord, I earnestly believe he redeemed my eating disorder for good by revealing to me and setting me free from self-centeredness, rebelliousness, and pride (of course this is a lifelong process). He also led me on a journey of rooting me firmly in my identity in Him, teaching me how to fight and grow stronger spiritually, guiding me in how to rely on his grace and not my own works, and giving me a great passion to help guide others out of oppressive eating disorders.
When you surrender to the Lord and follow him in faith, you receive the grace and abundance of life that you need to overcome. This does not mean life will be easier or your circumstances will always be positive, but God loves you and will never leave you or forsake you. In order to walk in his power and healing, you need to decide to take the necessary steps to receive and live in the grace that he gives you. The amazing news? God has given you everything you need in Jesus Christ, in his Word, by the revelation of his Spirit, and in the body of Christ (the Church). I pray that this book will be a blessing to you. May it not be an end-all-be-all, but instead a starting point to lead you into deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus, and to help equip you to begin to understand and walk in all that God has for you.
~ Rachel ~
“Binging is a descent into a world where every restriction you have placed on yourself is cut loose….At its core is a feeling of deprivation, scarcity, and a feeling you can never get enough.”
Whether it’s starving, bingeing, or somewhere in-between, a driving belief behind disordered eating behaviors often has to do with a fear that you need to make sure you get enough of something.
Maybe you’re afraid you won’t get enough love unless you restrict your calories or macros to get the “perfect” body that will make people want you and desire you.
Maybe you feel hungry for love in your family, friendships, or romantic relationship (or lack thereof), and food is the one thing that seems to fill that gnawing sense of love-hunger.
Maybe you grew up in a large family where you stuffed down your food as fast as possible at meals, in order to make sure that there were still seconds left for you.
Maybe you grew up in a family that had a hard time making ends meet, and you never knew exactly when your next meal would be, so when there was food, you tended to gorge on it.
Maybe your parents forced you to finish your plate when you weren’t hungry, because of “starving kids in other countries,” and now when you eat, you feel shame or guilt if you don’t eat all the food in front of you.
Or maybe you were in a family where no one talked about emotions and deep hurts, and you felt like you had to learn to cope and survive without someone to talk to.
Maybe you are someone who eats super “healthy” or “clean,” but if you eat something not on your list of “okay” foods to eat, then you go into an all-out binge. Either you are functioning from a place of scarcity (“I am not allowed to eat this food, but since I started, I might as well keep going, and I’ll do a reset or cleanse afterward”), or your body has been starving for enough calories, and it overrides your sense of self-control to gorge on what it needs: calories.
Last but not least, do you ever not allow yourself to have breaks while working, doing homework, taking care of your family, etc., except if it’s to eat or have snacks? Do you long for much-needed rest and recharge, but the only way you allow yourself to have that is through food?
Do any of these scenarios resonate with you?
Breaking free from deeply ingrained beliefs is a battle. Even just recognizing, and having the courage to explore what mindsets have been influencing you underneath the surface of your life is challenging enough.
How can you begin to win more victory in this area?
Sitting down and journaling your memories and feelings about times you’ve felt like you’ve had to make sure you got enough, is a great place to start.
I really recommend praying and asking God to show you your blindspots in this area, and to give you the strength to wade through the deep places in your soul that you may feel afraid to face.
Talking with a counselor or a close friend is another helpful way to process through your thoughts.
Don’t stop there!
Writing down those feelings is important, but you also need to replace them with the truth. One way you can do this is to write down the beliefs you have had regarding a poverty mindset, and then next to each thought, write out the real truth next to that statement.
I encourage you to pray and ask God what truth to put next to the lie, because he is the Word of Life, and he is Truth. Finally, ask him to help you renew your mind and your beliefs with the new truths that you write down.
Here’s an example of what this could look like:
I realize that when I let myself eat a cookie at work parties, and then I binge on all the desserts, it’s because I feel like this is my last chance to ever eat these kinds of sweets again, since I am supposed to eat clean.
I don’t have to eat perfectly all the time. In fact, this mindset has been more damaging than good for me, because it just leads me to be constantly thinking about food. It is ok for me to have a cookie. I can have a cookie anytime I want, and because of that, I am also ok not eating cookies or desserts at a party if it won’t make me feel good, because I know I can have desserts anytime I choose. There is always another opportunity to have dessert, and I can even make my own baked goods at home, or get some from the store. God has given me a spirit of self-control, so that food doesn’t rule my life. I am free to enjoy desserts, and I am also free to choose to abstain, since I know I can always enjoy a cookie another day.
If you get stuck on knowing what to write in your truth categories, and you are having trouble praying about it, it never hurts to ask a friend or counselor to help you. It’s great to allow yourself to rely on and learn from healthy community, and let them come alongside you to fight with you in your battles.
Changing ingrained beliefs is an ongoing process, and can take a lot of time. It’s easy to get discouraged, but don’t give up.
I pray that whoever is reading this who may be on a journey of taking back their freedom, their identity, and their sense of sanity, would experience incredible peace as they go down overgrown paths in their lives that they have tried to forget and ignore. Bring healing to the deepest places in their heart, mind and emotions. Be their guide and their comforter. Strengthen them with your joy, and show them the fullness of life they have in you. Show them your faithfulness, your trustworthiness, and your unfailing love. Show them how to fight and not give up hope.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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.
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
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.