God-EsteemChristina O'Connor was anorexic at an age in which her friends were unconcerned about their weight.
I would look in the mirror and see a fat girl. Those close to me would tell me that it was just the skin on my legs, but that wasn’t what I saw. Anorexia nervosa blinded my perspective of my teenage body. Though my bones were protruding out of my skin, I saw extra fat on my legs. I counted fat grams religiously, exercised uncontrollably, skipped meals and carried the unbearable weight of shame.
I was anorexic at an age in which my friends were unconcerned about their weight. I would be pressured into eating everywhere I went—my family wanted me to eat, my friends wanted me to eat and my body desperately wanted me to eat! My mom came very close to hospitalizing me. (That would’ve been even scarier because then I’d REALLY have to eat and gain weight!)
The Mayo Clinic defines eating disorders as “serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions and your ability to function in important areas of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.”
People with bulimia nervosa cause themselves to vomit after eating, rather than skip meals, in order to keep from gaining weight. Some participate in vigorous exercise in order to burn off as many calories as possible.
Binge-eating disorder is three times more common than anorexia nervosa. Binge-eaters consume massive amounts of food in one sitting. They find it very difficult to stop eating even if it causes discomfort; many end up feeling very unhappy with their weight and have really low self-esteem.
An eating disorder is not a diet someone tries in order to lose weight or get attention. Just because someone is skinny doesn’t mean they have an eating disorder. There is also an assumption that only teenage girls suffer from eating disorders. Although more women than men are diagnosed with eating disorders, young men are affected too. In fact, many teenage boys who are involved in the sport of wrestling face the challenge of “making weight” so that they can wrestle in a particular weight class. This often leads to an obsession with weight and food. Some wrestlers use laxatives, run in saunas or pool rooms with heavy clothing on, fast for days or spit constantly in order to make their weight.
“If we measure our worth by society’s standards, we will never measure up. If we measure our worth by the Word’s standards, we will always measure up.”
The Bible doesn’t specifically address eating disorders, but it does address our worth in Christ. We are flooded all day every day with images of what we should look like including: how thin we should be, what kinds of clothes we should buy, how much makeup we should wear, etc. We are in a battle, and I am convinced that the ONLY way we can win is to find our self-worth in Christ! If we are measuring our worth by society’s standards, we will never measure up. If we measure our worth by the Word’s standards, we will always measure up. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 ESV). God sees our heart. He values us so much that He sent His most precious, prized possession to be our Savior. We are chosen, loved, forgiven, precious, beautiful, worthy, accepted and adored. Rather than aiming for a healthy self-esteem, let’s be in pursuit of a healthy “God-esteem,” and God thinks the world of us!
Perhaps you or someone close to you suffers from an eating disorder. If so, please know that you are not alone! In fact, The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder! Do NOT allow the enemy to shame you! There is hope and help for you on your journey towards healing.
For Further Study:
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, don’t suffer in silence! Here are some resources that can provide help:
- Focus on the Family’s over-the-phone counseling service will give you Christ-centered guidance and a referral. You can reach them at 877-771-HELP or visit their website at focusonthefamily.com.
- Check out the books “Hope, Help & Healing for Eating Disorders” by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD and “Girl Perfect: An Imperfect Girls’ Guide to Finding True Perfection” by Jennifer Strickland, a former runway model.
Christina O’Connor is a motivational speaker, missionary and educator who teaches inner-city, at-risk students in an alternative school for behavioral and social-emotional needs. When not in the classroom, Christina travels the globe using her gifts of teaching and public speaking to share the Good News and her personal testimony.