Jump directly to the content
My Perfect Life with Anorexia

My Perfect Life with Anorexia


Aug 31 2012
And how God saved me from it.

The first time I admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder, I was eating raw spinach straight out of the container. As I wondered how many calories it contained—10, to be precise—and how long I would have run in order to "undo" my meal, it occurred to me: This is not normal.

As a highly driven, perfectionistic person, I never admitted that I was struggling. On the outside, I never let it show; I was editor-in-chief of the newspaper, passed honors classes with As—and I ate less than 1,000 calories a day. I thought I was standing out. In reality, I was isolated.

I was starving for love—and I am not the only one.

For high-achieving young women in intellectually rigorous academic programs, eating disorders offer a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety—beyond normal responses to insecurities, says Donna Aldridge, a professional counselor who works at the Wheaton College Counseling Center.

And it is a weighty issue to balance one's worth against physical appearance or academic achievements. For Christian women, God calls us to something greater than a life of balancing scales; God calls us to place the full weight of our struggles on the promises of Scripture. In God, we are more than any number - either our weight or our grade-point averages - can define.

Yet, even on Christian college campuses, disordered eating is unfortunately prevalent, Aldridge says. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, the average age of onset for a formally diagnosed eating disorder, which counselors distinguish from disordered eating, is 19 to 20 years old—and religion appears not to be a factor in prevalence.

"An eating disorder steps over the line," Aldridge said. "It becomes an all-inclusive obsession where it eats up the whole person."

As I found out, anorexia nervosa is more than salad for dinner "to lose five pounds" or fear of eating cake. The disorder, which is truly mental, is, despite common beliefs, not a fear of food; it is an obsession with food, not a choice, but a compulsion to eat perfectly, or eat nothing at all.

For me, anorexia began as a desire to eat more healthfully, but I quickly became preoccupied with food. I tallied calorie counts in the margins of my class notes, counting over and over again. I worked out obsessively and planned elaborate, weeklong meal schedules, only to settle for salad every time. Sometimes I would slip up and binge—horrifying, thoughtless eating rampages—and immediately regret every bite. I lived in constant fear that each meal would be the one that triggered a binge—or worse: that it would be my last. In any case, I could focus all of my brainpower on those miniscule calories, rather than on the uncontrollable world around me.

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
The Benefits of Having Other People Raise Your Kids

The Benefits of Having Other People Raise Your Kids

Why doing it all alone isn’t the best (or most biblical) parenting strategy.
What to Do When You Don’t Know a Family’s Immigration Status

What to Do When You Don’t Know a Family’s Immigration Status

Amid the confusion over immigration laws, here are five things you should know.
Christine Caine: Would God Give Me Ministry and Marriage?

Christine Caine: Would God Give Me Ministry and Marriage?

How God multiplies our loves and passions.
The Christian Editor Behind the South's Sweetest Wedding Mag

The Christian Editor Behind the South's Sweetest Wedding Mag

Talking perfectionism, marriage, and faith with entrepreneur and new author Lara Casey.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Not All Vulnerability Is Brave

We don’t have to expose our deepest secrets with every speech and blog post.

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
My Perfect Life with Anorexia