Contributor: Kirsten Haglund, Community Relations Representative for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center and Founder and President of the Kirsten Haglund Foundation
The term eating disorder is exceptionally ill-fitting as a descriptor. While disordered eating and weight control behaviors are usually the most noticeable symptoms of the disease, its roots are eminently emotional and spiritual.
The roots are why many in recovery from anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, orthorexia, etc., find themselves on a search for answers that are beyond the physical realm. In order to fully heal, recovery is about more than weight restoration or other tangible markers.
It is about uncovering deep pain surrounding questions of meaning, forgiveness, hope for the future, and the purpose of suffering. Recovery of the mind, soul, and spirit – where the illness begins – often brings us to our knees, as it did for me personally on my journey, before God.
Each person’s spiritual journey in recovery is different, but for many, acknowledging a higher power (for me personally, the God of the Bible) is instrumental in rediscovering identity, a sense of self-worth, experiencing grace and profound, unmerited, unconditional love.
This can be easier said than done, and restoring faith in God in recovery can be a long and winding road. It is important to recognize that the journey is often two steps forward, one step back, and so on.
However, God is not like the eating disorder – which is cruel, demanding, punishing and demoralizing. God is love – He is patient, kind, and forgiving. He will walk with us in loving kindness as we work toward trusting Him again.
Restoration of faith can be assisted in a few ways – here are some that were particularly helpful for me:
The Power of Authentic Prayer
Prayer can be challenging and confusing. Often, we don’t know what to say, or how to say it, or feel that we are too “bad” or “unworthy” to talk to God. However, the opposite is true. Why would the righteous need a merciful, loving God?
Why would healthy people need a doctor? God knows what is in our heart and on our lips before we think or speak it. He knows us intimately.
But He desires a relationship with us, and in order to deepen that relationship, we need to communicate.
Not because he doesn’t know us, but because He wants to build intimacy, and because He knows it is what WE need.
If we look to scripture, David throughout the Psalms cries out to God and shares both his wonder and awe of Him but also asks God hard questions, such as why certain tragedies are happening to him, or how he feels lost and forsaken.
Similarly, Job, in great distress, demands answers from God. Authentic prayer – talking to God about anything and everything is what He longs for, but also what is so soothing for our own hearts.
It can be hard to discern the still, quiet voice of God in the cacophony and distraction of everyday life. That is why it is so important to intentionally set aside quiet, private time to listen.
That can be early in the morning with a devotional book, a quiet walk in nature, or a secluded corner in a coffee shop or library – it’s up to you.
God wants our time and attention; He doesn’t want us to walk around in a state of perpetual stimulation, distracted from what He is saying, lessons He is revealing, love He is showing.
Be intentional about creating quiet time, and soon, you’ll crave it.
We often lay our sorrows, our brokenness, our complaints and our rage at the feet of God – and that is okay! He longs for us to come to Him with all of our burdens so that He can shoulder them for us.
However, when we bring them to Him, we must learn to LEAVE them with Him. How? By practicing gratitude.
For some, it helps to have a gratitude journal, where each day you write down three things you’re grateful for that day. It can be a simple as air to breathe and clean water to drink. Or your pillow. Or the clouds in the sky.
Gratitude can be hard when we feel so broken, but there are indeed incredible, beautiful gifts that God has given us – all around us – and practicing noticing them can help restore our faith that God is a good, gracious and loving God who desires to bless and not curse us.
This life will never be perfect, but we can see glimpses of divine goodness all around us if we take the time and energy to notice them.
Restoring faith in our God can be a slow process, but by it, we come to know Him, ourselves, and develop a sense of peace and acceptance that this world is not all there is.
Therefore, recovery comes to mean something much more than just normalizing eating behaviors – it becomes about soul transformation.
As we come to meekly, and then boldly, trust the Creator of the Universe, we realize that the idol of the eating disorder will never satisfy, and our gracious God will never be the cruel taskmaster that the illness is.
By grace and through faith we are drawn into God’s loving arms and no matter where the road to recovery leads – even when it briefly winds – He is walking with us every step of the way. Even when we are faithless, He is faithful; that is something to be praised.
About the author: Kirsten Haglund continues to work as an advocate for greater awareness of eating disorders and resources for care. Since she won the crown of Miss America 2008, she has spoken on numerous college campuses, worked with youth and church groups domestically and abroad, lobbied Congress with the Eating Disorders Coalition, and started her own non-profit, the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, to raise funds and assist families financially in seeking treatment for eating disorders. She is also the Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on September 25, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 25, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com