Yes, I know this is completely unrelated to my usual real estate and general Daytona Beach area event posts. But lately, every time I plan a blog, at the last minute I run across something that changes my focus. I'm now just going with the flow.
Eating disorders have been harming and killing people for longer than anyone truly knows. It was only in the 80s that Anorexia and Bulimia were officially recognized and named. In the 80s, I was a teenager; and at that time, it was the teens and young adults who were primarily affected by this disorder. I was one of them. My junior year in high school, (around 1985) over the course of what I think was a year, I managed to lose about 20 pounds through binging and purging. At my lowest weight, I weighed 87 pounds. Obviously, at 5'4" tall, when I weighed 107, I was nowhere near fat! But I thought I was. And no one could have convinced me otherwise. And in my mind, I was in a competition to be the lowest weight of everyone I knew. Because it was all about control. Other people were in control of every area of my life. But on this one? I had control and there was nothing they could do about it, because they didn't know what I was doing. They saw me eat. They just didn't see me purge.
I want to share with you, what I personally experienced in my battle with bulimia, and what I learned through my own research.
- You cannot convince someone with an eating disorder that they are not fat.
- You cannot force them to gain weight. They will find a way around you.
- If you do force someone with an eating disorder to eat, they're likely to experience extreme panic attacks as their brains "freak out" (my clinical terminology) about the enemy (food).
- Bulimia and anorexia are not the same. (They didn't know this in the 80s) However, if someone has one, they probably have some sort of battle with the other one as well. The biggest difference is that anorexics just think they have more self-control than everyone else while bulimics know there's a problem, but they're too ashamed to seek help. The amount of shame that accompanies an eating disorder is unbelievable!
- If someone who has previously experienced anorexia or bulimia is no longer being held captive by those diseases, it's very likely that they have found a replacement in exercise.
I'd also like to add that my grandfather, who just passed away last week, was an alcoholic. And one of my brothers is an alcoholic. And the bulimic thought process is very similar to alcoholism. The reason may or may not be because of a lack of Serotonin in the brain. To add one more note to my family's problems, all of the women range from full-figured to just plain over-weight. This fed my fear/obsession.
Thankfully for me, my parents are strong, God-fearing people who know how to PRAY with power. When they found out exactly why I was so thin, they prayed a faith-filled prayer that broke the power that disease had over me. I IMMEDIATELY stopped binging and purging, started gaining weight and suffered no anxiety about it. Being instantly delivered from the bulimia was a miracle in itself. But to have no anxiety about suddenly gaining weight was another miracle on top of it!
But at that time, I was still in high school. I was a Christian and I had obviously experienced a huge miracle. But even afterward, I still wasn't putting God first. It was His grace that had healed me, but I was still young and stupid, and more interested in fitting in and being popular, than in being obedient to the will of God.
After graduation, I moved to DeLand and got a job at a bank, found a roommate and got an apartment. I was still free from the bulimia, but now I was doing what young people do when they get their first taste of freedom. So I still wasn't putting God first. But His grace is an amazing thing, so I was still free from the bulimia.
About 2 years later I got married; and 2 years after that, I had my daughter. But during pregnancy I experienced severe morning sickness for much of the pregnancy. I would sometimes get sick every hour, for days at a time until my blood sugar was so low that I would shake. Finally around the halfway point, the morning/all day sickness subsided.
I eventually gave birth to my daughter. But I had her a month early; most likely due to the fact that I taught aerobics until my 5th month and even did aerobics on the morning I went into labor. Now there is nothing wrong with working out while you're pregnant. But you're supposed to keep your heart rate much lower and not let your core temperature get too high. I knew this at the time, since I was a certified aerobics instructor, but I was 22 (still young and
stupid thought I knew everything) and let's get real. When you're pregnant, you can reach the maximum advisable heart rate by walking across the room! So I ignored the rules, and continued working out the way I always had; and went into labor at the 8 month mark. (Woo Hoo! I only gained 20 pounds!)
But during the last hour during the birth, I had a nurse laying across my stomach to help push my daughter out, and a doctor using suction to pull her out, while my daughter's heart rate was dropping. I was too young to realize the possible ramifications of all this, but thank God my mother was in the room, praying non-stop. And after 22 hours of labor (we won't go there!) I gave birth to a 6 pound, 1 ounce, mostly healthy baby girl. What could have been the worst possible scenario was probably avoided, once again by the prayers of my parents. My daughter spent a week in the neonatal ICU because first of all, she didn't want to eat, and the doctor wouldn't let her go home until she drank 1 full ounce of formula; and then she got jaundiced and had to be placed in the little plastic bed, under the lights for a few days. I was allowed to come in and feed her every 3 hours. (All that obviously didn't stunt her growth. She's been 3 inches taller than me since middle school.)
So back to the eating disorder. After giving birth, and going straight back to teaching aerobics only 2 weeks after having my daughter, I eventually started binging and purging again. But this time it was much worse. I was probably experiencing postpartum depression but that was another thing you didn't hear about at that time. And this time the binging and purging was completely out of control. I was so ashamed that I had let this happen again! I didn't want to go to my parents for help, so I tried quoting scriptures and believing for healing on my own, to no avail. (Matt 18:20) Then I went to the leaders at our church but I could tell they didn't know how to deal with this. But I was so out of control, and was now responsible for an infant! So I called my parents and had to tell them that it had started again.
I had now moved back to Daytona Beach, and my parents were pastoring a church in Crescent City. During the one hour drive to their church, I was crying and completely humiliated and couldn't understand why I couldn't just stop this, and why it was so much worse this time! (Answer=Luke 11:24-26)
But God is so incredible! Once again, my parents prayed, and once again, I was IMMEDIATELY set free! And I have been free from that horrible shame and sickness ever since then. BUT, remember what I said about people replacing the original sickness with exercise. I went through many years of extreme exercise. And THAT can be justified by being healthy, staying fit, staying thin, etc.
The scariest part about eating disorders is, they are now hitting men and women of all ages. I had chalked it up to youth. But when adults, whose brains are fully developed, know the damage they're doing to their bodies, yet they allow themselves to fall prey to these life-threatening disorders, that tells me that a lot of people need to turn off their televisions, stop buying fashion magazines, stop going to the movies, and basically stop buying into what Hollywood is portraying as beauty! Try praying for self-discipline and good health instead!
Wow, this post is turning out to be much longer than I had planned. My plan was just to warn everyone of the long-term repercussions of Anorexia and Bulimia. I wasn't planning to give this much detail about my past experiences with an eating disorder. But I'll assume God had a reason for that too ;)
I'm now going to provide you with a list of possible things that can happen to your body when it is forced to endure long-term eating disorders and loss of vital nutrients. Thankfully, my bouts with bulimia were only for 1 year the first time, and a few weeks the 2nd time.
First, the short list. Malnutrition, dehydration, edema, muscle atrophy, TMJ, insomnia, hyperactivity, loss of hair, amenorrhoea, fatigue, depression.
Now for the critical, if not life-threatening problems and after-effects.
- Heart problems. (This is how Karen Carpenter died.)
- High or Low Blood Pressure
- Liver Failure
- Decay of the teeth and gums
- Suicide and/or death
For my final words, I can't speak from personal experience on this one, but it's just as severe as eating disorders and has even been called "this generation's eating disorder" and that is "cutting". I know a young woman whose arms look like she's been in a car accident. I don't know what she used to cut herself, but some of the scars are 1/2 an inch wide. And the reason teens and young people are doing this stems from severe emotional pain. I have a heart for teens, because I remember how difficult those years were. But most adults can't relate to teens and they don't even try. They just judge them for how they look and what they're wearing.
I'd like to issue a challenge to you all, and that is to try to remember how extremely emotional your teen years were. Even if you were the most popular kid in school, you can recall the extreme pressure to keep up appearances. And the kids you see that are dressed in black, with piercings in strange places? They too are keeping up appearances for their circle of friends. That may be the only group of kids that reached out to them, and now they have to fit in. We, as adults, should try to make the youthful years of the children we encounter, easier for them to bear. We shouldn't make those years harder by judging them. Let's take this a step further. Try this little test. The next time you walk by a young person who is dressed or acting in a way that makes you uncomfortable, if you can make eye contact with them, why don't you give them a smile. I think you'll be surprised at their response. If anything, that young person will be more surprised that you smiled at them, than you are at how they're dressed.
And if you know anyone who has an eating disorder, or if you suspect they might, why don't you try accepting them the way they are, so you can open a channel of communication. Pray for the right timing; pray for God to prepare their hearts to receive; and pray for God to give you wisdom and the right words to say. Because there are now web sites and videos that encourage eating disorders! Don't believe me? Check out these links. House of Thin, Pro Ana, Wikipedia info on Pro Ana, These people are calling eating disorders a "lifestyle", not a disease!
Watch these Videos; both for and against "Thinspiration"
- Love My Bones,
- Thinspiration video,
- ProAna isn't a lifestyle,
- So Beautiful,
- Devastating Outcome,
- Real Girl Thinspo,
- Addicted to Perfection.
I totally did not mean for this to sound like a sermon, but that's how it turned out. I don't feel like re-writing the whole thing, so I pray that you take from it what God would have you hear. And I pray that you're able to help someone in need.
And remember, when God heals or delivers you from something, He doesn't do anything half way. I was healed completely! I have suffered from none of the after-effects that are listed. We all need to be less selfish and self-absorbed. We are surrounded by hurting people. Try reaching out. And if your hand gets slapped, reach out again! It's not about you! It's about helping people in need.