I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do I do not do,
but what I hate I do.
Romans 7:15

How did disordered eating happen? What flipped the switch? Why do I do what I hate?

To answer this question relative to the four testimonies shared in the book and, perhaps, relative to my life:

At some point in each person’s life, there was a breach, collapse, or lack of intimacy. Each adopted patterns of disordered eating in an unconscious attempt to insulate him or herself against the emotional pain. GTST, p. 25

Can you identify with this summary? I know I can. On Sunday, I wrote in my journal:

Ok, so this is how I got to where I am, but what about now? Why can I be so filled with a rich life of closeness with wonderful people, yet still struggle? How come between this and my times in Your Word, Lord, in prayer…why do I continue to have a disordered relationship with food, eating, and my body? My life is a veritable feast on your love and the love of others!”

God has been faithfully answering this question–even this morning. I hope to write about that tomorrow.

The book goes on to explain the causes of disordered eating. I find encouragement and hope in this explanation because I am not just a “sinful person” like many teach. While we don’t want to blame our current choices on others in our past, sometimes it helps to understand some of what has occurred in the past *affects* my choices now! I am not crazy. Neither are you! I summarize what the book says about this below. Do you see yourself in any of these explanations?

  • Trauma – unresolved emotional trauma…including, but not limited to rejection in a significant relationship. In my case, I don’t need to go any farther than my relationship with my mother. The act that epitomizes how she felt about me was when she tried to place me in a foster home when I was 14. Definitely rejection and abandonment are a part of this for me.
  • Abuse – The authors describe that this can be anything from the covert obvious abuse to something a bit less obvious, including growing up in a dysfunctional home situation like with an alcoholic parent. I had two of those.
  • Having been a very sensitive child.

Some who read this blog or who I have spoken with feel that since they didn’t have any significant “abuse” or dysfunction that they can see in their homes either as children or later, that this whole line of thought might not apply. I quote at length from the Get Thin Stay Thin book in case you can be encouraged too!

Even in a “functioning” family, where feelings are acknowledged, a very sensitive child may not have his or her needs met. A child who grows up in a family where emotional pain is not acknowledged or discussed may turn to food for comfort. Outwardly the family may appear to be “perfect” and problem-free. Frequently, these families are very religious and spend a significant amount of time attending church or synagogue activities. Even though the source of the family’s pain is often very subtle and difficult to identify, children are usually aware of it and maybe even think it is their fault. Lacking someone to talk to and having inadequate coping skills, a child may develop disordered eating. GTST, p. 26

For those of you who weren’t raised in an obviously dysfunctional home, does this explanation resonate at all?

  • A controlling environment – where we learn to survive by giving up our own identities while trying to please other people.

Again, I can identify with this. I walked on egg-shells in my family of origin. If I didn’t, it meant my mother would make yet another suicide attempt. I learned to stuff down who I was or else she would try to kill herself and, again, it would be my fault.

  • Lack of validation of feelings.

Many people with eating disorders come from families or relationships where there appears to be no overt abuse or identifiable problem. They experienced, rather, a very subtle undermining of their self-esteem…They may have repeatedly received no validation of their thoughts or feelings or were given the message that it was wrong or selfish to feel as they did. People (as children or as adults) might conclude from this experience that they must be bad or crazy. Over time, they learned…to direct their negative emotions inwardly and become self-abusive, since direct expression was not allowed. GTST, p. 27

In all situations such as these…gosh, in life in a sinful, fallen world…we don’t experience the emotional support and intimacy that God intends. As a result, we learn disordered ways of coping with the pain that life throws at us–be it in a horrible, abusive family, or on the highway, or in the line at the grocery store.

We aren’t crazy! We may have the Romans 7:15 struggle of not understanding why we do the very thing we hate–that which we don’t want to do. There are solid reasons that we struggle in this way.

By believing God’s truth about this, we begin to have hope that if there is a reason and I am not just crazy, it can be dismantled…piece by piece…and brought to Him.

That is what my journey through this book is about. Having spent the last 2 years dealing with a LOT of externals and more superficial things, I sense God calling me to a deeper thing he is doing. He is doing a NEW thing.

I hope that you will join me in believing God for what is in store.