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Issues With Eating

Eating problems have lots of faces.

Were you to look up emotional eater or yo-yo dieter in the dictionary you’d find my name. Every ebb and flow of life was punctuated with food. Without boring you with the details, my childhood was not idyllic. The emptiness created relationally in life was filled with a second helping of something tasty and a few hours later, a little more. Hunger wasn’t part of the equation filling a void was my answer then. I was a chunky toddler, whose baby fat never grew up.

By age eight, I was taking physician-prescribed diet pills once per day and injections 3 times weekly for weight loss. I had no appetite and sleeping was impossible. After a month the physician agreed this wasn’t right for me. I tried every diet pill, fad diet or program imaginable.

Dieting/starvation then binging characterized my lost search for thinness, (not healthy living). I lost ten pounds only to put on 30. The next month, I’d lose 5 and find 20 more. This pattern continued throughout school, and in the 7th grade I lost 45 lbs., which lasted for almost six months. The same kids who had taunted me were now telling me how great I looked! Once, I even lost 75 lbs. and within five years my old pals, the pounds, were back with friends of their own.

The number on the scale was (wrongly) the barometer of my self-esteem; my judge and jury.  Beauty and acceptance were inexorably tied to thinness. I accepted the bogus claim that I didn’t have the willpower or discipline required to be thin, although God gave me infinite willpower, discipline and achievement in other areas of my life.

Life is a wonderful teacher and thankfully straightens out misconceptions.  As an adult, I am finally learning that stuffing food into emotional places never helps. That is a victory! When I fall into that trap I remind myself that something must be bothering me. I stop and ask God what He’d have me do instead of finding solace in the refrigerator. For me, over-eating is sinful because it doesn’t permit God to do what HE does best: heal, change or perfect me.

Linda
(Linda is in recovery used with her permission)

 

Eating problems exists on a spectrum from mild symptoms that are an expected part of life experience, to moderate symptoms that interfere with your daily living, to severely debilitating eating disorder symptoms that undermine your health and can lead to death.

A mild level of eating issues is an expected part of life given the society in which we live, but is still in need of correction. Mild disordered eating can spur us to make better choices and move forward. At the point when we are aware that our eating is affecting our health, relationships or view of ourselves, we may ask God for strength to help guide us to address the problem.  Examples of mild symptoms include slight emotional eating, periodically eating too much at one sitting, occasional inability to sense one’s level of fullness and stop eating at an appropriate amount, periodic inability to eat because of stress, slight body dissatisfaction, etc.

When eating problems become unproductive: This is often a turning point where disordered eating is not only unproductive, but also persistent and becomes destructive.  There are various forms of eating disorders, such as binge-eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia.  The diagnosis of an eating disorder should only be made by a professional who has been trained to weigh additional factors and to consider a wider range of alternatives.  Please consult your physician and/or a specialist such as a psychologist or licensed professional counselor who specializes in treating eating disorders.

 

What are the symptoms of Eating Disorders?

Binge Eating Disorder:
Binge-eating disorder has become known as a compulsive overeating, a name common in 12 step programs. Surveys estimate that between 2 – 5 % of Americans experience the symptoms of binge eating within a normal 6-month period. Symptoms of the disorder are:

  • Recurrent binge eating, characterized by eating excessively within a relatively short time period. The person feels unable to stop themselves; feeling out of control during the episode
  • Binge-eating episodes are associated with at least 3 of the following behaviors: Eating much quicker than normal, as if unable to get food down quickly enough
  • Consuming food until becoming uncomfortably full
  • Not motivated by physical hunger, but overwhelming the body with vast amounts of food
  • As alcoholics drink alone due to embarrassment, binge eaters often eat alone
  • After over-eating feeling disgusted, depressed, or very guilty with ones self
  • Feeling markedly more distress and anxiety over their binge-eating behavior
  • As with other eating disorders, binge eating occurs at least 2 days each week for a 6 month period
  • Binge eating is not associated with purging, fasting or excessive exercise.

Anorexia

Anorexia deceives people into seeing themselves as fat or overweight when they view themselves.  In actuality, they are critically underweight.  This disorder is growing. At first women between the ages of 19 – 24 were predominately affected, however men and women of all ages are falling prey to it as well. In a society that rewards extreme thinness, many are at risk. Please review these symptoms and know that help is available.

Those with anorexia:

  • Resist maintaining their body weight at/near a healthy weight for their age and height
  • Hold an enormous fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though they are underweight
  • Have a distorted body image
  • They deny the seriousness of their current low body weight
  • After the on-set of menstrual cycle find they miss their periods

These people see themselves as overweight when in reality they are dangerously thin.

Anorexia becomes an obsession. Unusual eating habits develop such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating them in small quantities or carefully weighing and portioning food.

People with anorexia may repeatedly check their body weight, and many engage in other techniques to control their weight, such as intense and compulsive exercise, or purging by means of vomiting and abuse of laxatives, enemas, and diuretics. Girls with anorexia often experience a delayed onset of their first menstrual period.

The ramifications of this debilitating disorder vary from person to person. Some fully recover after the first episode; some relapse and watch their weight yo-yo; while others chronically decline over the course of their lives. Anorexia carries some frightening statistics: a mortality rate estimated at 0.56 percent per year. There is no easy way to say that it is estimated that the death rate of anorexia is about twelve times higher than other women who die from cancer, heart disease and other illnesses in the general population. Death frequently comes as a result of suicide, cardiac arrest or electrolyte imbalances.

Bulimia
Bulimia is characterized by:

  • Resistance to maintaining body weight at/near a healthy weight for their age and height.
  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating (A binge is characterized by both of the following: One, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating; or two, eating in a discrete period of time an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.)
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.
  • The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behavior/s both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.
  • Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

If you OR a family member or friend meet these criteria, please consult a medical doctor and a mental health professional!  Eating issues often respond to treatment well, but early diagnosis and early treatment intervention increase the likelihood of recovery.

Eating Disorders and issues that go hand-in-hand with food problems are not new.  In the Bible, we find examples of people who were in need of help with daily worries including food issues:

Let a person examine oneself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon oneself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
In I Corinthians 11: 23-30

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
In Matthew 6:34

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God!
In Romans 12:2

As you can see, the above scriptures were addressing real world issues of that time not only spiritual discernment issues but eating problems, worry and worldly transgressions.  For our purposes, we can see that we are asked to discern what we really need on an emotional, spiritual and physical basis on a daily basis.  If you, or someone you know, are having eating-related issues like those mentioned in this article please know that you do not have to continue living with this trouble.

To learn more about counseling services for eating disorders call The Summit at 678-893-5300 or 678-893-5300.

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