Tuesday, 01 May 2012 17:49

Anorexia: Starving Yourself to Death

Written by  Brenda Payne
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“My name is Sally. I am fourteen years old. I used to be a “normal” teenager who loved to play sports, hang out with friends, and listen to music. Recently, I have become obsessed with the fear of getting fat. I live in constant dread of huge hips, thick thighs, and a saggy stomach. While I don’t really want to starve myself, I see no other way to reach my ideal body weight than to regulate calories and exercise vigorously. I am trapped and I don’t know how to stop the cycle. Most of the time I don’t even want to.”

 


Sally is a fictitious character, but her story is one that is all too common among teenage girls who struggle with a condition called “anorexia nervosa.” Anorexia is an intense fear of gaining weight. People struggling with this condition relentlessly pursue thinness and are unwilling to maintain a normal or healthy weight. They might achieve this through self-starvation, highly restrictive eating, continuous dieting, compulsive exercising, self-induced vomiting, or misusing laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

Anorexia is a very dangerous condition which can lead to death or permanent health issues. The abusive bodily behavior can result in rotting teeth, hair loss, dry skin, muscle loss and weakness, reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), stress on the heart leading to heart failure, and dehydration which can result in kidney failure. The affects of malnutrition can also be seen in structural changes and abnormal activity in the brain. This affects the person’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions. Research shows that some of these brain changes return to normal after weight gain, but some damage may be permanent.

Anorexics often struggle with emotional issues like depression, anxiety, and obsessive impulses. Lying and deceit become a normal way for anorexics to continue their harmful behavior—even while others may be trying to help them recover. Unresolved guilt is another powerful emotion that drives the anorexic. People who have anorexia often become socially withdrawn and lose interest in the outside world. Isolation from others and negative emotions only exacerbate the cycle of starvation.

By now, you might be asking “What in the world would motivate someone to engage in behavior that will make them so miserable and might even kill them!?” Good question! Motivation, or the heart issues, behind the eating behaviors is where the Christian must go in order to help a person with anorexia. We must ask, “What has captured the person’s heart or become her functional god?” The most common idolatrous desire include:

• A desire for a “perfect” body image (although they have a distorted body image)
• A desire for perfection
• A desire for approval
• A desire for control
• A means to deal with emotional pain/stress

What are some practical steps you can take if you or someone you know is struggling from anorexia? First of all, seek medical attention immediately! Anorexia is life-threatening and a doctor and dietitian should be enlisted to deal with medical and physical issues. Secondly, seek biblical counseling. God’s Spirit, Word and the resources He provides through the local church are sufficient to deal with the emotional and spiritual issues of those enslaved to eating disorders. Biblical counseling should address the following:

1) The person must understand salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Unless a person trusts in Christ for salvation, she will not be able to avail herself to all the resources God provides to help her change.

2) The person must understand the idolatrous desires or particular motivations behind the destructive thinking and behavior.

3) The person needs compassion and instruction on how to deal with failure and guilt through the Gospel (this includes confession, forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation). Initial progress will oftentimes be simply the recognition of failing to please God and the willingness to please Him above all else.

4) The person must learn how to forsake “living by feelings” for “living by faith”. This is especially true in dealing with the fear of gaining weight and the uneasiness associated with both the way one will look at a given weight and eating. Since the anorexic individual has become habituated to his ways of thinking and behaving, developing new normal patterns will “feel” abnormal.

5) The person must change thinking patterns which influence behavior by “putting off” sinful thoughts and inaccurate perceptions and “putting on” biblical (and biblically accurate) patterns of thinking. The person with an eating disorder has spent hours counseling herself about her eating, weight gain, and body image. She must be taught how to counsel herself from the Scriptures.

6) The person needs to determine biblical goals and have practical accountability where needed, (especially for lying and deception which is prevalent with eating disorders).

7) The person needs regular fellowship and service through her local church in order to focus on loving God and her neighbor more than focusing on herself.

The insatiable quest for thinness is essentially a “hollow and deceptive philosophy” that will only carry a person away from the Truth of Christ. If you or someone you know has been taken captive by an eating disorder, please seek out help today. The Scriptures are sufficient to tell a person how to deal with the heart issues leading to, and as a result of, an eating disorder. Christ is willing and able to help set you free, so trust in Him and His ways today.

Last modified on Monday, 14 May 2012 13:05
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