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Eating Disorders

Christy Henrich, a world class gymnast was told that she would have to lose weight to make the 1988 Olympic team. She was 4’10” and weighed 90 pounds. She died of multiple organ failure due to anorexia in 1994. Lea Thompson (Caroline in the City) was rejected by a ballet company because she was too ‘stocky’ at 5’5″ and 96 lbs. “According to an article by Judith Newman in Redbook, young girls today are more afraid of becoming fat than are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.” 1

Society’s pressure to be beautiful has an immense effect on a young person.

Girls are aware of what “pretty” means before they enter kindergarten and quickly discover where they stand in relation to the other girls. As a girl moves through elementary grades she will discover if she is deemed “pretty,” that boys pay more attention to her, she is more easily accepted, thought to be smarter, and her teachers are nicer to her.

As she moves into her teenage years, she may find that thinness is a requirement for acceptance and especially so for some activities, especially sports.

Eighty-five percent of American women are not satisfied with their body size and either has dieted, are dieting, or believe that they should be dieting…between 10 and 20 percent of all women will engage in bulimia at some time during their lives, and 1 to 2 percent will experience anorexia nervosa.”2

How does an eating disorder start?

Eating disorders may begin during stressful times such as puberty, a change of schools, divorce, a breakup of a relationship, or family problems. Often it starts as a diet that goes out of control.

The disorder serves a purpose, it is an effort to cope and communicate. It is a problem and an attempted solution at the same time.

Perfectionism leads to unrealistic expectations and is the major root cause of eating disorders.

The extreme definitions by which they measure themselves assure failure leading to feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. Each unrealistic expectation is a false belief and in counseling can be corrected by demonstrating its irrational and illogical aspects.

One false belief is that “I must be perfect to be loved.” Scripture is overflowing with accounts of God working through imperfect humans. God’s love is not based on performance or goodness rather in spite of our sins and imperfections (Eph. 2:9; Isa. 64:6).

Eating disorders are a form of addiction

Eating disorders are addictive disorders and the behavior is driven by the addictive cycle: the need for love; the pain of low self-esteem; addictive agent to anesthetize the pain of unmet needs; consequences; guilt and shame; self-hate which then starts the cycle over again.

The longer the cycle continues, the more damage is done and the more firmly the illness is entrenched.

Eating disorders manifest physically as a “preoccupation with one’s body, weight, and eating; profound dread of obesity; distorted body image; malnutrition; little interest in or aversion to sex; cessation of menses; irritability, depression, and inability to concentrate; dehydration; faintness; and slow heartbeat”3

Eating disorders manifest emotionally in perfectionism, low self-esteem, sexual identity confusion, depression, deception, power struggle, and interdependency.

Continue to Part 2 – Anorexia and Bulimia

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