This last post in the Lessons for Moms on Eating Disorders series is meant to encourage you, to remind you of who God says you are, who God says your daughter is. It is also a mentor mom post. Meet Jen, a friend from my college days, and the first mentor mom to have known me before I was a mom! Her words will encourage you as you try to learn about the difficult world of eating disorders.
*Note the images in this series have mostly been of my own family or kids from the orphanage in Honduras. Today’s image, found near the end of the post, is Jen’s daughter.
I (Jen) currently teach English to high school junior and seniors and have just finished grading every senior’s research paper. One of them wrote about the negative impacts of media on our children and youth. I dropped my pen, hung my head, and nearly started to cry as I read these startling facts:
- 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
- At age 13, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their body.” At 17, this jumps to 78%.
These facts strike a tender chord in my heart because I spent nearly six years of my life battling an eating disorder. I have shared portions of my story before with people and often tell them as I stand before them confidently at nearly 34-years-old, 5’10” tall, and 150 pounds that there was a time in my life when I was this tall and weighed 40-50 pounds less. Honestly, I don’t remember looking any different than now, and I still have a hard time even telling in pictures that I was any skinnier – or at least an unhealthy skinny – but I have plenty of people in my life who assure me that it was a scary time. And while I was never scared, I must say I am now very grateful to enjoy the delights of so many WONDERFUL foods in our world and not be attempting to restrict myself to 200 calories a day or running until I collapse on a track or doing sit-ups until I black out in a dorm room.
However, as a youth pastor and teacher, and now a mother, my own experience leads me to be very observant to, in particularly, the young women around me. I’m quick to listen to the words they speak in regards to their own bodies, to watch the food they do or don’t choose to eat, and to pay attention to their body language and actions as they sit down for any type of meal or snack. I feel like our culture has taught us well to adorn girls with comments that accentuate their physical beauty and the outfits or shoes they are wearing. And while, as women, we all long to be noticed as beautiful, we need to be careful how we choose to portray beauty – is it in clothes, shoes, hair, makeup, or weight? Or is our beauty wrapped up in our identity in Christ?
As I journeyed towards health, the verse that God gave me was Ephesians 2:8. And the New Living Translation is my favorite! It reads, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” WOW! Did you catch that?! We are God’s MASTERPIECE!! Every time I start to spin out of control and begin to catch a glimpse of retreating to my unhealthy place, I am reminded of that verse by my husband, or a friend, or by God’s Spirit in my heart. I am God’s MASTERPIECE! And He has GOOD things planned for me…just the way I am, because I’m already masterful!
I urge you as you invest in the lives of women – both young and old – to strive to focus on the beauty as God’s Word describes it. Yes, we are to take care of our bodies, for they are gifts from the Lord; but don’t hold back on telling your daughters, your granddaughters, your nieces, your neighbors, and your friends that they are God’s MASTERPIECE just as they are! It is a big misnomer to believe that eating disorders are “JUST” about weight and body image. There are always underlying reasons that go deeper than just a number on a scale or a picture in a magazine. For me, it was about having control of something when my world felt out of control and it was about figuring out how to put words to my need to be cared for or helped when all my life I had been taught to care for everyone else. I knew that I was loved, but I hadn’t fully received or heard the message that I was a ‘masterpiece’ – just the way I was. That even amidst my flaws, God still had a purpose for me and good things for me to do – even if I wasn’t perfect.
Eating disorders are complicated, tricky diseases. And there are definitely tell-tale signs of individuals struggling – not eating very much, or eating a lot and then excusing oneself from the table to go to the restroom, obsessively exercising or talking about food and weight. Obviously, you can be honed into these, but making a big deal of them often can make the situation worse. What helped me the most in my recovery were the friends who simply offered their presence and still treated me as “normal.” The friends who saw the masterpiece within me and continued to challenge me to pursue the good things God had planned for me were ultimately what helped me to choose into a healthy way of life.
God’s daughters – our daughters – come in all shapes and sizes. And our media and society has caused a startling number of them to be worried about their body and the number on the scale. What a beautiful, refreshing word it is then to be told regularly that we are God’s MASTERPIECE and to see women around us living that truth out! I pray that today you will live masterfully as you pursue the “good things He planned for you long ago!”
Thank you for learning with me in this series. Please, if you know a mom with a daughter who could benefit from this series, will you please send her here. And if you have time, leave a comment to thank Sadie, Emily, and Jen for sharing their words and wisdom. They have blesses us so much. If you missed the other posts, check them out!
- Lessons for Moms on Eating Disorders
- Sadie’s Lifelong Struggle
- Prevention Possibilities
- Emily’s ED story
- Mom in the Mirror