Unlearning a Lifetime of Disordered Eating

By May 23, 2012

Growing up I was raised by a mother who was very bulimic. She was highly addicted to laxatives, exercise, and dieting. She projected all of this onto me. As a child I was not allowed to eat normal foods very often. She would put me on diets and I had to eat “diet food” and take tons of weird vitamins. As I got into my pre-teen years, I began to join her in her “binge” cycles. We would plan elaborate binges on a Friday night where we would sit down at a table with every cookie, chip and dip you could buy. We would eat until we were sick. In my teen years my parents divorced and I continued to binge. I went from 115 lbs. to 148 by the time I was 17. Eventually the binging stopped (only by the grace of God). But I am now 30 years old and continue to struggle with the “extra 20-30 lbs.” dilemma. I have gone up and down on the scale. Although I don’t binge, I have a very hard time eating like a normal person. I guess this is because of my childhood. Since my weight is at an all time high right now (155, and I’m only 5’4″), I have been very concerned with how to lose this excess weight. But I am having a really hard time doing this without falling back into disordered eating. If I decide to count calories, I become obsessed with the calories. I tried Weight Watchers and became obsessed with the scale and counting points. I also did the Weigh Down Workshop. Honestly this was a pretty good idea, but I dropped it when I found out that she denied the Trinity. To sum it up, I am having such a hard time losing this weight without becoming obsessed with it. I am glad to read about EDNOS because I feel l fall into that somewhere, especially being the daughter of someone who was so bulimic. When I am not trying to lose weight I feel okay mentally. But I don’t want to stay at 155. I used to be a healthy size 9, now I am a size 12/13. But the minute I start to try and lose this weight, it is as if there is a switch inside of me that gets flipped and goes into obsession mode. Any advice? – Alysha

Dear Alysha:

First, I want to say that your story really touches my heart, and my prayers go out to you. You are an amazing person for enduring such a confused upbringing without developing a full-blown eating disorder. You have a much clearer understanding than most people of your history and how it relates to your current issues. Your insights and motivation to be free of weight/diet preoccupations are truly gifts from God.

Because of your complicated background, you really would benefit from the counsel of a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders (see “Finding a Nutritionist”). It’s going to take some time and work for you to unlearn the dysfunctional eating practices that were passed on to you, so the individualized attention would be ideal. This professional could also objectively assess your current health and weight status. If you also find that you need to dig deeper into the emotions behind your eating issues, an eating disorders therapist would be extremely helpful.

I do want to make a comment concerning your reference to the Weigh Down Workshop. Although there is controversy regarding Gwen Shamblin’s theology, the program itself does contain some helpful information for breaking free from food and weight obsessions. There is another book that I prefer, however, although I strongly dislike the title. It’s called “Thin Within” by Judy and Arthur Halliday. It’s a grace-oriented approach to attaining and maintaining a healthy weight, packed with wonderful scriptures. With professional counseling and the wisdom of this book, you will begin to experience the freedom you long for.