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 ...1
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