The Challenges of Anorexia
Family Involvement in Recovery
Sarah, is a beautiful dark haired 13-year-old who was diagnosed at 66 pounds as too underweight to be admitted to an Eating Disorder Center. The doctor’s felt she was in need of a higher-level program. Her parents were devastated. She was a worshipper, good student, popular cheerleader, dancer, had good friends…it just didn’t make sense. Sarah is a talented girl from a Christian family. She’s also a perfectionist. These activities constantly drew attention to her body and weight, so they kicked her perfectionism into overdrive. In order to maintain what she felt was an acceptable size, Sarah started skipping meals.
When confronted with Sarah’s condition, the family immediately became involved in the healing process. Anorexia is a unique combination of heredity, environment, culture, and conditioning that can cause eating disorders to develop. It is not anyone’s “fault”; it is important to remember to be patient, non-judgmental, listening and love unconditionally. Three important points to keep in mind: first, eating disorders rarely resolve on their own; second, if one’s daughter has an eating disorder, the entire family is impacted; and third, parents must not blame themselves, it accomplishes nothing. You did not cause this; therefore, you cannot fix this on your own. Please get help and trust God to walk you through the healing process.
After accepting the fact that Sarah needed help, she and her mother sought a Christian counselor. It was revealed she had been rehearsing a lie, “I will do it tomorrow,” meaning tomorrow she will eat. Due to the destructive mindset, she was trapped and continued to resist eating. After prayer, the Lord gave her a new mantra to rehearse, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13. That revelation soon became the family’s motto to encourage each other.
Sarah was finally admitted to a program out of state. After counseling, she began eating three meals and two snacks each day. As her strength grew, she then began encouraging other girls. Their stories were inspirational and she delighted in sharing their progress with her family. A few days into the program, she wrote a letter to her mom and sister, “I love you guys soooo much! I know this is hard for you to watch me go through this but this is the place God put in my life to help nourish me to be someone even better than I was before. I love you to the moon and back. I can’t wait to see you, Love, Sarah”.
It wasn’t easy. There were times Sarah did not do well. The nagging voice in her head was strong. Perfectionism had been her enemy. Her dad eventually visited. She was brave and shared how he made her feel; she thought she needed to be perfect and skinny to be loved by him. She was always trying to please everyone and having to be the best at everything at home and in school. God began stripping her of her false identity and unworthiness. A difficult roommate and being bullied by others, added stress to her stability. The request to change rooms was denied. That was a challenge! No more running, she had to face her fears. Sarah decided to make the best of the situation. She took her guitar and wrote her first song, “New Beginnings”. Her music contributed to the healing for her and her roommate. Slowly things began to turn around. Sarah had gained weight and went from 66 pounds to 78 pounds.
Recovery is as hard on the parents as it is the child. Through Sarah’s journey, her mother realized that God was not only healing her daughter, but healing her, too. During prayer she had a vision that she was laying her 66-pound daughter’s body into Jesus’ arms and cried, “I can’t save her.” Jesus held Sarah close to His chest and said, “Sarah will be okay”. That picture continued to support her growing faith. Sarah’s faith was growing too when she decreed, “I do did not want this eating disorder to be passed on to the next generation”.
Sarah’s mother reminisced, “Family therapy was tough.” As a Mom, she thought she had protected her from an abusive and unhealthy marriage, but her daughter saw it all. The last visit Mom had with Sarah, she saw her daughter stronger, laughing with so much hope. Today Sarah is almost at her normal weight. She has become a worshipper and shares her story, “I am no longer in bondage to anorexia. I still need to surrender my thoughts to God daily. I want to see myself through His eyes as a unique and precious daughter.”
As a parent, you can help your child overcome a negative mindset. Encourage them to believe the truth according to God’s Word about appearance and weight. This is what our heavenly Father has to say about our bodies and real beauty:
- Genesis 1:27 — You were made in the image of God.
- Psalm 8 — In the whole wonderful universe, He gives you a place of honor.
- Proverbs 31:30 — Outward appearances doesn’t matter as much as what’s inside.
- Zephaniah 3:17 — The God of the universe takes delight in you!
- Romans 5:8 — God loves you enough to send His Son to die for you.
- 1 Peter 3:3 — How you look is not what really makes you beautiful.
If God created our bodies, then they are good! Keep encouraging and reminding your child how precious they are in the sight of God and how important they are to the family. Continue to walk in love and do things you did before; family trips, going out, shopping. Strive for a sense of normality so that a life without the eating disorder is possible. You can trust God and know; He will walk with you to restore your family unit.