Updated: Mar 14
Recovery from an eating disorder is a long, difficult journey. It requires tremendous courage and strength to challenge the deeply held beliefs and habits that often fuel eating disorders. Along this path, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by problems that seem impossible to solve, but with God, compassion and consistent effort, recovery is possible!
So, whether you are currently struggling with an eating disorder or supporting someone who is, I hope this blog post brings light to your own personal journey of recovery: offering both insight, resources and most importantly – some hope for a brighter future.
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is an illness that involves disordered eating habits and extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding food. They can be dangerous and have serious physical and psychological consequences. In fact, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), up to 30 million people in the United States are affected by an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
In addition, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) estimates that 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder during their lifetime. These numbers indicate how prevalent eating disorders are in our society and highlight the importance of understanding and treating them.
What are the Different Types of Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can have devastating physical and psychological consequences. They affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, though they are more common in women and young girls.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health the four most commonly-diagnosed types of eating disorders are:
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by extreme weight loss, caused by limiting food intake and excessive exercise. People with anorexia typically have a distorted perception of their body size and shape, leading them to be overly concerned about their weight. Health complications associated with anorexia can include cardiac problems, osteoporosis, and gastrointestinal issues.
People with bulimia often have a distorted perception of their body size and shape, leading them to be overly concerned about their weight. Health complications associated with bulimia can include cardiac problems, electrolyte imbalances, and gastrointestinal issues.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsive overeating in which the person feels a loss of control over their eating behavior. People affected by binge eating disorder often feel shameful or embarrassed about their binge eating and may have a distorted perception of their body size and shape.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Another common eating disorder is Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). It involves avoidance of certain types of foods or refusal to maintain adequate nutrition due to fear of embarrassment, nausea, choking, or other digestive disturbances. Individuals with ARFID have a distorted perception of their body size and shape, leading them to be overly concerned with their weight.
Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are complex mental and physical illnesses that can have a wide range of causes. Although the exact cause of eating disorders is not known, research shows that certain biological, psychological, and environmental risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
Biological Causes: Eating disorders may be caused by a combination of genetic, and biological factors. Studies suggest there is a link between eating disorders and genetics. Therefore, some people may have a higher susceptibility to developing an eating disorder because of their genetic makeup.
Psychological Causes: Psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. In fact, some people use this as a mechanism to cope with stress and anxiety.
Social Causes: The pressure to conform to certain ideals of beauty, such as those portrayed in the media, can cause people to develop unrealistic expectations about their body image. People who are constantly bombarded with images of idealized bodies may be more likely to develop an eating disorder as a way to cope with these feelings of inadequacy.
Environmental Causes: Certain environmental factors can also contribute to eating disorders. These include family dynamics, peer pressure, and cultural values. People who come from families where there is a focus on appearance or thinness may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. Similarly, peers who have an unhealthy obsession with body image can contribute to the development of disordered eating behaviors.
Emotions Associated with an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are not simply about food - they are complex psychological issues with a wide range of emotions associated with them. These may include:
Guilt can be an especially debilitating emotion in someone suffering from an eating disorder. They may feel guilty for having the disorder and culpable for any perceived failures in controlling it. In addition, they may feel guilty for the amount of attention their disorder takes from those around them or for the burden that their illness places on friends and family.
Anger is a common emotion that often surfaces during recovery from an eating disorder. This anger can be directed at oneself, those around them and even the mental health system as a whole. People with eating disorders can be angry at themselves for not being able to live up to their own expectations, while others may be angry at society or the medical establishment for not doing enough to help them.
Sufferers often feel isolated and disconnected from those around them. This can lead to feelings of emptiness and despair, making recovery much more difficult.
Another common emotion is shame experienced by someone with an eating disorder, often due to a distorted body image and feeling “not good enough” in comparison to others. They may feel ashamed of their behavior and find it difficult to open up or ask for help due to the stigma attached to eating disorders.
Thankfully, the Bible reminds us that our worth is not based on our physical appearance. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV) says: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
In short, he loves us unconditionally and values us no matter how we look or what weight we are. We can find strength in trusting in His truth when trying to combat feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy associated with an eating disorder.
Challenges that Affect Recovery from Eating Disorders
When it comes to Eating Disorders, there are several things that can stop people from getting help and recovering. Here are some of the prominent issues that deter the process;
One significant factor that can prevent people from getting the help they need to recover from eating disorders is the secrecy associated with them. People may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their situation and thus, hide it from those around them. This can keep them isolated and alone in their struggle, unable to find the support and guidance needed to overcome their disorder.
Even if someone with an eating disorder reaches out for help and begins to make progress, it can be difficult to completely break free from the habits associated with their disorder. This can create a cycle of attempting to stop and relapsing back into old behaviors. Without ongoing support, this process can become discouraging and seem hopeless.
Unfortunately, the stigma associated with eating disorders can prevent many people from seeking help. People may feel judged or ashamed, even by health professionals, which can lead to a reluctance to reach out and access the care they need.
What are Some of the Steps that Someone Can Take to Recover from Eating Disorders?
Recovering from an eating disorder is a journey that requires time and dedication. There are many steps one can take to encourage their recovery process. The following steps provide guidance on how to recover from an eating disorder:
Acknowledge you Have a Problem
Accepting the reality of your situation is the first step in recovery. It is important to reach out for help and support, whether it’s through a support group or individual counseling with a professional.
Work with a Nutritionist to Create a Plan of Action
A good nutrition plan can help you move away from disordered eating patterns and towards healthier habits. Working with someone knowledgeable about nutrition can help ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs for recovery.
Address the Root Cause of your Eating Disorder
While behavior modification and meal planning are important, these alone cannot fix an eating disorder. It is also necessary to understand why you have been engaging in disordered behaviors and address the underlying issues behind them. This is why counseling or talking with a therapist can be so important, as it helps you to discover the root cause behind your behaviors.
Remember Your Body is a Temple
As you move forward, remember 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” This verse reminds us of how important it is to be honest and seek help when we need it, as well as how much God loves us and wants us to take care of ourselves. With time, dedication and the right kind of help, recovery is possible.
Finding someone who understands the journey of recovery and can provide the necessary support and encouragement is key to healing from an eating disorder. Faith on the Journey offers a safe space for those struggling with eating disorders. We provide Christian counseling to help you navigate this journey with understanding and compassion.
Visit our website at https://www.faithonthejourney.org/counseling for more information on how you can connect with someone who can support you.
Are you struggling with eating disorders? Check out our podcast on healing from an eating disorder HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry Mungai is an accomplished administrator and emerging author with a passion for writing in various fields. She graduated from Moi University with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and has been working in administrative roles for several years. Terry has two years of writing experience and is enthusiastic about producing engaging content that informs, educates, and entertains readers. She is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, where she spends her free time exploring new writing projects and perfecting her craft.