Eating Disorders – and Getting Up Again and Again

It was April of my 8th grade year. We were going to field hockey practice when I overheard two upper class man talking about a girl in our school who was overweight. Why are they speaking about her like that? That is so mean! I wonder if they talk about me like that? What if they think I’m fat? What if they laugh about me? I glanced down and saw my scuffed up black shoes. Then noticed my skirt which was two inches to short for this Catholic school. Every morning at prayer one of the teachers reminded me of that fact, Maura, your skirt is supposed to touch the floor when you kneel. Please tell your mom to fix the hem or you will need to get a new one. 

Then I panicked. Okay, great now I’m sure people are talking about me because I’m fat and my skirt is too short. Why can’t my mom just fix the skirt? I don’t want anyone talking about me and I don’t want to get in trouble. I was an exceedingly anxious child. My exterior proved to be as fragile as egg shells at times, and if I was corrected or talked to harshly, I shattered.

I remember going home from school that day and telling my mother that I was never eating ice cream again. She thought I was kidding, because what normal child says that? Well I’m going to show them all that I’m not kidding. I’m going to start running and swimming more and eating less. No one is going to talk about me behind my back.

My mom, an exceptional cook and baker has always provided the very best of food for us. Always making sure we ate healthy foods, with ample amounts of protein, calcium, and other nutrients. She often cooked organically and to this day, I prefer her cooking over countless restaurants. Yeah, Mom can make that better, I always say to myself whenever I am out to dinner and order something that doesn’t measure up to hers. To put is bluntly, I’m a snob when it comes to food.

But that year, I threw it all away with my defiance and lack of self-esteem.  My mom always insisted that I eat breakfast before school, so I started telling her that I would eat my toasted waffles on the way to the bus stop. I lied to her and that hurt me. But I have to because I know no one believes that I need to lose weight. What are they thinking? Why don’t they see it like me? It’s time for me to take matters into my own hands. I threw my waffles down the sewer drain every morning on the way to the bus stop. In the beginning, the guilt of what I was doing almost crushed me, but I couldn’t stop. As time passed, the lies started darting out of my mouth and the person I was becoming frightened me. Oh, I already ate breakfast Mom. Yes, lunch was delicious, thanks Mom. I had a snack on the bus, I’m not hungry. No, I only ran 5 miles (when I had actually run 7 or 8). I’m actually babysitting tonight, so I’ll eat there. And once I got there, Oh I already ate dinner at home because I was so hungry. 

I allowed myself a few hundred calories a day and went to bed starving. And there were countless nights that I couldn’t sleep because my hunger pains kept me awake. If I survived the day with only a few hundred calories I considered it to be a good day. If I had slipped, I was sure to punish myself the next day with an extra mile or two of running and even less meager portions .

I was severely anorexic for years. Then one day, I lost it. And ate everything in sight because I couldn’t take the hunger anymore. Afterwards, I felt disgusting and guilty. So I exercised   excessively to purge my body of all that I had just consumed. Why couldn’t I just eat in moderation? Why aren’t I worthy of three meals a day? People tell me I’ve always been thin, why can’t I see that too?

Anyone who has had or presently has an eating disorder knows the trap of what I have described. I share this with you today, because the emails I am receiving really touch my heart. It is my desire to be vulnerable with you women in hopes that it offers you hope. I boast in the Lord for what He has done in my life and I desire for you to be able to do the same.

I know that despite what I have done the Father forgives me. And He forgives you too. His forgiveness is ours for the asking. But we need to do just that, we need to ask for it. We need to beg Him for it. Several readers have asked what I did to overcome an eating disorder. I am humbled to share the following with you today.

1) It’s exceedingly important to acknowledge that you can do nothing without God. I would say several times a day, “I am nothing without You. Please help me.”

2) Frequent the sacraments, confession is essential. I really started noticing a change in my disordered eating when I was honest in confession.

3) Seek professional help and work hard at it. You must fight for anything worth attaining.

4) If you weigh yourself 20 times a day, then start by weighing yourself 19 times, instead of 20. And work your way down to eventually putting the scale away, but take it slow.

5) Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up, acknowledge the failure, make a resolution not to do it again and move on. And when you fall again, repent and repeat the above.

6) Remain positive – seek beauty in your cross and this is only accomplished through God’s grace. You must pray daily.

7) There are many things I could mention in regards to food, but am going to refrain from doing so at this time until I consult with a professional. I do not have a degree in psychology and want to make sure I provide you with information that is solid. But stay posted, because I will clear them by a psychologist and post them shortly.

I am praying for each of you. You remain in my heart in a special way and I always carry your petitions with me.