“She has an eating disorder.”
“How can you tell?”
“I just can. Look at her eyes – they’re dead. See how she exercises like she’s about to keel over? That’s compulsion. Her face is hollow. There’s no life in her. It’s all ED. She’s going through the motions because she has to. ED is telling her to and all she can do is listen. She’s not free to make her own choices. She’s not a body that’s strong and healthy. She’s a body that’s starving both emotionally and physically. She’s alone with her head and she can’t get out. She’s here, but she’s really not. She thinks she’s in control, but ED is controlling her. She has an eating disorder. I can tell.”
“She has an eating disorder.”
“How do you know?”
“See how she’s messing with her food on her plate. She’s cutting it into tiny little pieces but never eating any of them. She’s pretending that she’s a part of the conversation but look at her face when she thinks no one is watching. She looks at her plate in fear. She doesn’t know what to do with it. She’s scared to death. There’s her fake laugh, trying to join in the joke, but then she goes right back to her plate. The thought of how to get out of eating it is consuming her. And there’s the napkin, off her lap and on her plate covering up the entire meal she never ate. Here comes her excuse – ‘My stomach feels off tonight. I’m just not hungry . . .No no, I”m fine. I’m sure it will pass.’ But see how she doesn’t relax. She’s wondering who believes her excuse, and she knows her husband doesn’t. Now she’s laughing and talking, hoping to get his mind off the fact that she didn’t eat anything. She’ll play up to him all night so he forgets the uneaten food. But that fear won’t leave her eyes. ED is winning over the man who loves her. ED has her loyalty. She has an eating disorder. I can tell.”
“She has an eating disorder.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, think back to her conversation all night. All she talked about was how fat she feels. She kept complaining that she ate too much, that she never eats like that. Every statement had to do with how out of character it was for her to eat so much food. Like she was trying to convince us. ED made her feel guilty. He whispered in her head all night that she had ruined her reputation of being skinny and healthy. I heard the fear in her voice, fear of all the calories she consumed and the fear that she’d let ED down and the fear of what we all thought of her. And I watched her while everyone else at the table was talking and laughing. No one cared or even noticed what she ate. But she checked out every single plate on that table. I could practically see her calculating the calories on everyone’s plate to make sure that she had eaten the fewest. I watched how she kept looking down at her own plate, then at another’s plate, then back at her own. She felt guilty. And she didn’t know how to handle the guilt besides making excuses for how much she ate to convince herself that she’d eaten the least amount of calories so she was okay; ED didn’t have to punish her. Her identity is tied to her control over food. And tonight she lost it. In her mind she took one bite too many and she lost her control over food. She disobeyed ED and now she has to pay for it. She has an eating disorder.”
I don’t want anyone to have an eating disorder. I know that feeling of being imprisoned in your own mind, trapped by an irrational and intense fear. ED filters out sanity and replaces it with mind-numbing illogic. It is such a horrible, horrible place to be. It’s terrifying because on one hand, the one with the eating disorder doesn’t understand her compulsions, but on the other hand, she cannot let the compulsions go because these addictions hold the key to her tight-rope of peace. And ED lets her think that she is fooling everyone, when in actuality, everyone sees. They wonder. They raise eyebrows and talk in whispers. She sees their questioning looks, but she doesn’t have the capacity to acknowledge their worry because then she’d have to admit on some level that their must be a reason that they are worried about her.
But I just couldn’t let go. The fear was white-knuckled, paralyzing, and completely unreasonable.
Eating disorders are not about food. Eating disorders are about the fear. So when you confront someone you are worried about, that fear tightens their heart and freezes their insides. ED will not allow himself to be found out. ED will illicit anger, hatred, meanness, excuses, ignorance, innocence – anything to escape confrontation. That is why it is so, so, so important that confrontation is exactly what we do. I don’t know too many people who enjoy confrontation for any reason, but that usually means there’s a need for it. Don’t let anyone you love suffer in a prison of their mind. Don’t let them live in fear. Love them enough to not talk in whispers or raised eyebrows. Love them enough to put on your bullet proof vest and stand up to ED. Because ED will be doing the talking for them. He will push down and bury any cry for help that your loved one may truly want you to hear. He will duct tape their mouth and chain them to a wall. Put on your armor of love and fight through ED’s lies and anger and jealousy. He doesn’t deserve to hold your loved one captive. And you don’t deserve to lose them. Tough love is not for the faint of heart, but for the love of a Savior that died to set us free, be willing to stand in the face of fear to draw the person you care for to safety. It will be a fight. That irrationality will hide your love from their eyes, but don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Pray through the hurt and frustration and anger and set backs and keep fighting. God is stronger than ED. ED can’t stand up against Him.
Surrender is hard. No one wants to surrender. Surrender feels like humiliation and loss of pride in the moment. This I know. But as soon as your friend, sibling, mom, daughter, son, cousin, dad, brother, colleague, whoever it is held captive by ED, when they finally let go of the irrational and illogical hand of ED, the chains will fall off and they will be free. You will hold their hand as God carries them to safety and peace. Peace. And then you must keep speaking truth for the rest of their lives. Keep being love to them. Keep praying God’s power over them. ED will retreat. For some he will be killed in the battle and never be able to return. For others, he will always be lurking, waiting for that opportunity when the guard is down to pounce once more. So be on your guard against his evil. But never live in fear. Live in faith, hope and love. God’s love will drive out the fear, and life can be lived to the fullest joy imaginable. I know because I feel it. I taste it, and IT TASTES GOOD. Joy is here and freedom is a hair’s breadth away. I have the man who tough loved me, and I have the army of loved ones who carried me to safety and who pray peace over me everyday. I know they do because I feel it. God is good. Hallelujah! God is here!