GIRLS and the FOOD STRUGGLE by Christie Pettit

istock_000002267622small_(3)During my freshman year in college, I set out to lose about ten pounds. What began as a simple plan to get fit spiraled into a dangerous obsession. Somehow I became so compulsive about exercising and dieting that I developed an eating disorder called anorexia. As I became more and more concerned about my body, my relationship with food changed. My new, restrictive eating habits and my intense exercise regime soon began to interfere with my personal relationships, one of the first signs that I had a serious problem.

Throughout this time in my life, I kept a journal as a part of my daily time with God. By keeping this journal, I unknowingly documented the development of my eating disorder, as well as my long recovery process.

Journal Excerpts:

July 13 – I feel completely and utterly broken. I am so tired of dealing with this weight issue, and I don't know what to do. I can't handle this by myself. I hate what this obsession is doing to me. I hate who I have become, and yet I am not willing to give it up. My physical weight is not the problem here. The problem is what is going on inside my head. I know that God is in control. He will teach me a lot through this trial, but right now I am at my weakest point. I feel so very, very low.

July 22 – I talked to Ms. Smith today, and I feel so much better. She reminded me to realize that I am okay and that God loves me not matter what. She also made me see the danger in letting the opinions of others govern how I feel about myself. I am the one that counts. The way that I feel about myself matters more than what others think. I should always trust myself and what God is telling me. My weight is an issue that I have to face, but everyone has their own issues, and this isn't anything I can't handle.

September 13 – I have been hurting God by how much I compare myself to other people. It is a horrible habit that I have developed. I feel like I have to exercise more and eat less than everyone else around me.

September 30 – I didn't really have the greatest day today. I think tonight was particularly awful because I made a bad decision about not going out to dinner with my friends. I have been reverting to some of my weird behaviors again.

December 11 – I became so wrapped up in what the world was telling me that I could no longer recognize the truth. This is a dangerous trap, and it has been hard for me to climb out of the hole that I have dug for myself. Even though it is challenging, it is worth it. Being freed from the world's entanglements is so liberating. Living by God's standards is true freedom.

Many young women, in an attempt to be more attractive and more feminine, find themselves restricting their food intake. Constant media messages tell us what we should and shouldn't eat and what we should and shouldn't look like. Unless we are diligent about refuting these lies with God's truth, we too will be victims of this type of distorted thinking.

How should be feel about food and our bodies? The answer can be found in God's truth about who we are. If we can be secure in our identity in Christ, we will not need to look to things like physical appearance for worth and acceptance. If we can learn to see ourselves as God sees us, then we will have confidence in who we are.

Do you find yourself wondering if you might have an eating disorder? Take the following quiz to see if it would be a good idea to seek professional consultation.

1.  Do you constantly fear being fat?

2. Do you find yourself thinking about food and weight all the time?

3. Do you exercise obsessively, induce vomiting, or abuse laxatives in an attempt to lose weight?

4. Do you avoid social situations where you know there will be fattening food (ex: birthday parties where there will be cake or dinner out with friends)

5. Are you constantly comparing your body to others?

6. Do you develop rules about foods to help limit your calorie intake? (ex: I will not eat anything after 8 pm.)

7. Do you avoid entire food groups in order to lose weight? (ex: carbs, fat)

8. Since losing weight, has your period stopped?

9. Do you prefer to eat alone?

10. Do you often skip meals altogether or overeat to the point that you feel out of control?

This quiz is not a diagnostic tool. It is should be used only to begin to assess whether there may be a problem that should be addressed by a trained professional.

What real teens have to say:

“I am self-conscious about my body, but I try to overcome this by saying that I need to be this way for my sport and that others just think I'm strong, not fat. But I'm almost always aware of it or try to cover up areas I don't like.”—Mary

“I think it is important to surround yourself with women who have a healthy perspective. This doesn't mean women who never exercise or eat only junk. I think it's important to have a healthy lifestyle, but there should be room for being flexible and not being controlled by these things.”—Emily

“My experience in college was unlike most of my friends' experiences because that is when I least struggled with these issues. I watched my friends exercise excessively, eat broccoli and ketchup for dinner, wither away to nothing, and refuse to believe anything was wrong. But in the back of my mind, I was asking myself if this was the reason they were getting asked out more.”—Helen


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