A Kiss on the Forehead

Encountering Heaven in Every Day Life

Supporting Rachel: My Story

**disclaimer: I am not directing anything in this post at anyone in particular (apart from names mentioned), nor to cast judgment on anyone. my goal is merely to educate and enlighten using my own thoughts and experiences.**

Let me start by saying that this post will NOT be what you think. My goal is neither to bash “The Biggest Loser” nor to share my opinion on Rachel’s appearance in the finale of the prime-time weight-loss reality show. Neither of those things are my place, and as much as I have opinions, there are plenty of other blogs and places you can go to read about those things.

I do want to say, my heart goes out to Rachel. Seeing the joy and excitement on her face on Tuesdays finale, I can only imagine how devastated she must feel at the social media backlash she is receiving for doing EXACTLY what she was challenged to do – and that was to loose as much weight as possible in as little time as possible. She was doing what she was told would make her healthier, happier… she was told it would give her confidence and a bright future. She lost an amazing amount of weight. You see the look in her eyes during the finale and she is proud. She is excited. I’m sure she sees her weight loss as an amazing victory. Something to be celebrated. Because in our society, that’s what we do.

Rachel-Frederickson-Biggest-Loser-Emag

I remember being in a similar situation in my late teens. Puberty hit me late. Around my junior year of high school, I started to “fill out” and my once stick-like and lanky figure became fuller, rounder, more womanly. I was never obese, but I’ll admit it – I was that girl who had always eaten a cheeseburger, french fries, a bag of Cheetos, a coke, and an ice cream cone for lunch (not even an exaggeration) and never thought twice about it because I had a “super-metabolism.”  That was NEVER a “healthy” choice for me, but my unhealthy decisions took awhile to catch up. By the time I graduated from high school, I was teetering on the “overweight” side of the BMI chart. I was starting to become uncomfortable in my own skin. Between friends, family, and acquaintances, I began to receive comments, encouragement to choose another path… a path to become “healthier.” I was told I needed to start exercising and eating healthier, that I couldn’t keep eating ice cream twice a day. I was told “calories in, calories out” and encouraged to trade my cheeseburger for a salad. None of it was bad advice. All of it was well intended.

When I got ready to leave for college, I was warned time and time again about the “freshman fifteen,” and when my college roommates and I sat down on the first night of school to create goals for ourselves for the semester, I made it my goal to be “healthier” – I was going to exercise, eat healthier, and stop midnight snacking. Sounds innocent and healthy, right? I was supported by my friends and family. They gave me tips and held me accountable to my eating and exercise regimen. I remember celebrating the first time a pair of pants was so big on me, it fell off. I was SO proud of myself. I was SO excited.

And then I went home for Christmas.

People who hadn’t seen me for awhile saw me for the first time in months, and I was met with concern after concern about my weight loss. I kept assuring people I’d done it healthily, and in my own estimation, I had! I didn’t know any differently! I had discovered, as Rachel said during her victory speech on Tuesday night, that I COULD take control of my eating and my life and make myself healthier. I had NO idea that I had already spiraled out of control.

So imagine my shock and confusion when later that semester, I found myself sitting on one side of a long table, being confronted by faculty, staff, and administration of my college, my parents on speaker phone, being told that I had an eating disorder, was being dismissed from school, and would be unable to return until I “got better.” In my mind, I had done exactly what everyone had told me to do. And here, they wanted to send me to a psychiatric hospital. How on earth was it okay for the girl down the hall from me to eat right and exercise “for her health,” but when I tried to do the exact same thing, I was suddenly deemed “crazy”??

(Do you see the parallels here with Rachel’s story?)

I will say, I AM SO GRATEFUL that someone said something. I did spend the next four (roughly) years of my life in and out of treatment centers and psychiatric institutions, uncovering deeper issues (to be discussed at another time and place), and I am eternally grateful to those who saw that I DID need help, and that they were willing to go to any and all lengths to get it for me. I am so thankful to God that He spared my life in spite of my ignorance and foolishness. I’m so thankful for the life that I’m living NOW, FREE from my battle with anorexia and living healthily with my husband, beautiful child, and another on the way. I have been healed, body, soul and spirit. And I’m SO grateful. I can’t say that enough.

However, that doesn’t mean the path was easy. That doesn’t mean I jumped into getting help right away with arms extended and ready for whatever the “experts” wanted to throw at me. That’s just not how it works. I fought it. It took a long time to reconcile the fact that what I had been taught was “healthy” had gone way too far. And I was so scared of going to the other extreme in my life (which I knew I was capable of) that it took me a long, long time, lots of prayer, and lots of “letting go” to get there.

So back to Rachel.

Now, I don’t know Rachel personally. I can’t sit here and look at her picture and what I know of her journey and diagnose her with an eating disorder. Nor should I.

However, based on my own experiences, I can appeal with you to respond to her reveal on Tuesday night in a few ways. These things can be applied to ANY situation where you fear someone you know MAY have an eating disorder.

1) Try not to judge her based on her appearance, or the number on the scale. It’s NOT our place to do so. If Rachel does have an eating disorder, comments like “you’re too skinny” are not helpful. In fact, they can be just as damaging as comments of “you’re too fat.” If you are ever concerned that someone in your life may have an eating disorder, there are much gentler, kinder, and more effective ways to approach it. Now, I understand that we live in an era of social media and people are going to say what they’re going to say (and Rachel, I’m so sorry for that!) but it’s a good habit to not comment on peoples weight and/or appearance. It’s okay to be concerned for them, but I would be careful about how that concern is expressed. **Let me add here that in situations where this is someone you know personally, finding a way to gently confront the person to get help IS necessary – but make sure you have approached the situation prayerfully and with tact and forethought, and never make their appearance or number on the scale the focus of that conversation. This is something else I will discuss somewhere else at a future date.**

2) Pointing fingers of blame is not helpful. I’ll be honest. I don’t watch “The Biggest Loser” regularly. There are reasons why I don’t watch it. The same reason a former alcoholic wouldn’t spend a lot of time in a bar. But I have seen enough to know the premise and understand WHY the trainers and producers of the show overall are being blamed for her appearance. I have my own opinion, but I also know that the problem is much, much bigger than a reality TV show. It’s a sin issue in our society involving the idolatry of health, fitness, nutrition, and appearance. Does that mean that taking care of your body is wrong or that it’s wrong for people to go on that show and loose weight? Not at all. I applaud them for it. I’m a huge advocate for taking care of oneself through proper eating and nutrition. The issue is much, much bigger than all that. But I’ll talk more about that another time.

3). What Rachel needs right now is NOT CONDEMNATION, but rather COMPASSION, UNDERSTANDING, and SUPPORT. First of all, as I mentioned above, none of us know if Rachel has an eating disorder. We should leave that up to her own support system, counselors, nutritionists, friends, and family. However, if she does, the LAST thing she needs is people screaming at her and judging her through social media outlets. Going through a struggle like an eating disorder is ANYTHING but easy, and NOT something one should be judged for.

I remember, so clearly, the day I was first told I had an eating disorder and dismissed from college. I was humiliated. The very thing I had spent so much time working my tail off for and celebrating was being condemned as WRONG. I had SUCH a hard time reconciling that in my mind. I remember walking around campus feeling like everyone was judging me. I felt so much shame and condemnation. I felt embarrassed. I felt stupid. I felt like everyone would think I was completely superficial and selfish. I felt so guilty as my roommates helped me pack and said goodbye, and I knew they’d be so much better off without me. I felt suicidal and alone.

IWU

The thing is, the support I was receiving from those around me was completely the opposite. Sure, there were those people who kind of stood at a distance and didn’t know how to respond, but for the most part, I was surrounded by loving, compassionate friends. No one called me hateful things like I see being said about Rachel on social media. No one started out telling me I had control issues or I that was too competitive. I received nothing but love and support.

I get that by going on “The Biggest Loser” Rachel was putting herself in the public limelight. I know, but even being in a public light, I don’t think that changes how we should handle the situation. I also understand many saying that she did it just for the money. That may be true, but again, not helpful. We should never take it upon ourselves judge another’s hearts or intentions. (I am guilty of this, but working on it. Haha).

Oh friends, can we put aside our shock and our judgement, and instead pick up love and compassion? Can we pray for Rachel and those around her instead of publicly blasting her? If it comes to light that she does, indeed, have an eating disorder, can we be there to support her instead of clicking our tongues in judgement and saying “I told you so?” And instead of trying to find someone to blame, can we look within ourselves and see how we might be contributing to the bigger problem at hand in our society?

**I rarely post anything controversial, because I know there are plenty of people out there who can “out-talk” me or back me into a corner in a debate. That is NOT the goal of this post. I recognize that I may have lit a fire in some of you to argue and bash me and this post. That’s a risk I took in writing this. In fact, I’m struggling with whether or not I will publish it as I type this. But I feel that in order to have compassion, we must have understanding. And that’s what I’m yearning for us all to have.**

Let’s have our arms stretched out in compassion, seeking to understand, speaking the truth in love, instead of ending with pointed fingers of accusation.

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Choices Part 1

Earlier this month, I spent a lot of time on my Facebook page raising awareness about Eating Disorders. After all, it was Eating Disorder awareness week. This week has a special place in my heart because, as I’ve already alluded to, I struggled for several years of my late teens and early twenties with severe anorexia that landed me for many months in inpatient treatment in a psychiatric facility. Before you write me off as being completely crazy for having spent so much time in a psych hospital, let me suggest to you…

Maybe we’re ALL just a little crazy.

Huh?

Yeah, I said it. And I don’t mean in just a “sometimes-I-dance-around-my-living-room-singing-into-a-spatula-as-my-microphone-pretending-to-be-on-American-Idol” crazy.

…aaaaaaand then again, you probably do that, too…

May I propose to you a different definition of crazy…

Crazy is choosing to believe that which is not true, or choosing to remain blind to the truth.

Let’s back up a second and think about an example of someone who the world would REALLY consider to be “crazy”…

Let’s look at my favorite movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Have you seen it?

*gasp!* You HAVEN’T?!?!  This must change, my friend. And although this post is a total spoiler, read on (and then go see the movie… cause you have to)…

In any case, the central character in the movie, John Nash, battles schizophrenia. He sees “delusions” – he sees things that aren’t really there. He believes a lie. And his belief in these lies causes him to live in ways that directly contradict reality. He chases “Russian spies” in the middle of the night… he sneaks around behind his wife’s back in order to participate in “secret missions”… and he nearly lets his infant son drown in the bathtub based on the message of these delusions.

To him, the delusions are not delusions at all, but are very real, all-consuming, and, in a sense, have become a part of who he is and the way he lives.

They are his best friends.

His security.

His reality.

Oh friend, we are ALL just like John Nash…

Sure, the lies we believe may not come in the form of schizophrenic delusions or hallucinations, but clearly, we are all just a bit crazy

We all believe things that aren’t true. We have mental tapes that aren’t based on truth at all, but are rather based on lies… they are based on false messages about ourselves, about God, and about others that we’ve heard from the time we were very young, and we’ve heard them so much we have chosen to accept them as reality. Perhaps we were abused or experienced some trauma which fed into these lies. Perhaps we grew up being taught that being a Christian means being “good” all the time.  Perhaps our experiences in this world have taught us to believe things that seem very real and true to us. Perhaps we believe it’s true that…

I must be perfect to be loved. I don’t deserve to be loved, not even by God, because I’ve messed up again and again…

If I forgive those who hurt me, I am letting them off the hook. I must remain angry to protect myself from harm.

Because I am a Christian, I will be protected from pain and suffering. 

I am fat, ugly, and awkward. No one could love me like this.

This situation is overwhelming. Drugs, alcohol, food, or relationships are the perfect way to relax and to escape.

If you believe any of these things to be true, I have no doubt that they seem very, very real to you. I also have no doubt that these beliefs have a very strong influence, whether you realize it or not, on the way you live from day to day. You may want to argue, “if you knew everything about me, my life, and my situation, you would KNOW these things are true.”

I remember feeling very much the same way. I remember a day when I was sitting across from a therapist in a psychiatric hospital and she was asking me to look in a mirror and tell myself that “I like myself.” She told me I was severely underweight and dying. I looked in the mirror and I still saw a fat blob. Inside, I was screaming, “I CAN SAY IT, BUT I DON’T BELIEVE IT! I STILL BELIEVE I’M UGLY, STUPID, FAT AND AWKWARD! I am unlovable! WHY should I tell myself something I don’t BELIEVE to be TRUE!?!?”

I was irritated and discouraged by people who told me my eating disorder was an “illness” I would be battling for the rest of my life. What kind of hope did that give me?

I was so frustrated with people who didn’t know SQUAT about what I was experiencing trying to talk me out of my own sense of reality.

I was also so frustrated with people who told me to pray more, read my Bible moretrust God more, and I would be healed. That God would make the thoughts would go away.

If it was as easy as all that, I would’ve been healed a long time ago. Duh. Who wouldn’t want that?

What was so frustrating to me is that I could look at the facts and I could see what was “true”… I knew on the one hand that I was dangerously underweight and in danger of a heart attack or starving to death.  But the “voices” in my own mind continually told me “You’re FAT. You’re UGLY. You’re AWKWARD. You’re UNLOVABLE.” And let me tell you, those voices were LOUD. And I had prayed, asking God to take the “voices” away… asking Him to “heal” me from this eating disorder. And yet, the voices were still there. So maybe the “experts” were right. Maybe this was an awful disease I would be plagued with for the rest of my life. I was SO discouraged. So what was I supposed to do but give in and believe the lies?

Not long after that, I was allowed to go on a pass and spend a few hours out of the hospital in the “real world.” A friend and I decided to go to the movies. We saw “A Beautiful Mind.”

I remember the first time I saw the movie so distinctly. When you watch this movie, the delusions Nash saw seem so real at first – the producers don’t reveal to you what or who the delusions are, nor the fact that Nash is, in fact, schizophrenic. When it is finally revealed that the roommate, the little girl, and the even the secret agent are all just figments of John Nash’s imagination, you feel so dumb, like the film-makers have tricked you. When people first start pointing out to Nash that the delusions aren’t real, that they aren’t TRUTH, you aren’t sure who to believe.

As I watched the film, finally coming to terms with the fact that Nash’s delusions were NOT real, for the first time in my life, I started to question my OWN view of reality.

I jokingly turned to my friend and poked her saying, “Are you real?”

Though I was externally joking, as I turned inward God began to do a work on my heart through this box-office hit, and he spoke softly to me, “Have you considered that everything you believe to be so real… may not actually be TRUE?”

About halfway through the movie, I went to use the restroom, and as I washed my hands I glanced up and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was suddenly caught off-guard with the reality that maybe the way I saw myself wasn’t based on reality at all.

Maybe the way I was thinking was based on lies, just like John Nash.

I was frustrated. Okay, so maybe what I believed wasn’t true. But how on earth could I change the way I was thinking? The tapes playing in my mind again and again were so loud and seemed so real.

And nothing seemed to shut them up.

I went back into the movie theater and was shocked as God spoke again, so clearly, through John Nash…

See, at the end of the film, he’s been through treatment. He’s on medication. He’s doing quite well as a professor and he’s about to be awarded the Nobel Prize. Big stuff for a crazy guy! He is, by all accounts and purposes, doing really well and not only functioning, but thriving in every day life.

But I don’t really think that’s the point of the movie. Click the link below, watch the clip, and see if you catch it….

http://www.veoh.com/watch/v33093279pTtBM6dR

Did you catch it…?

There are words in that clip that make me jump up and scream “Hallelujah!” every time I hear them. They changed my life forever.

When Nash’s friend asks him if the delusions are gone, what is Nash’s response? He stops. He thinks. He turns and sees his delusions still following him. And then he states, ever so matter-of-factly…

“No, they’re not gone. And maybe they never will be. But I’ve gotten used to ignoring them and I think as a result they’ve kind of… given up on me. I think that’s what it’s like with all our dreams and nightmares, Martin. We’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”

Oh, the TRUTH of that sentiment resounds ever-so strongly in my heart, even 12 years later!!

In that moment, sitting in that tiny movie theater, my life changed. And I suddenly realized I didn’t have to be a victim of the thoughts that plagued me.

I had a choice.

choose truth

 

I realized, for the first time ever, that maybe being “healed” from my battle with Anorexia didn’t mean I would never hear another negative thought about myself again. It didn’t mean I wouldn’t struggle with feeling beautiful or lovable.

Maybe being healed means CHOOSING to believe the truth instead of giving in to the lies. 

And maybe, like John Nash, if I chose the truth enough, the lies would give up on me?

I was willing to try.

And it changed my life forever.

Won’t you try, too?

Friend, what lies are you allowing to speak so strongly to your heart and mind?  How do you see this impacting your every day life? Maybe you don’t struggle with an eating disorder, but are they preventing you from living the abundant life God wants to give you through Christ?

Deciding it’s time to CHOOSE TRUTH is the first step toward victory over the battle in the mind. No matter what your battle might look like.

Stay tuned for part 2… 

In the mean time, if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, download this free e-book<https://secure3.convio.net/mmoa/site/Ecommerce?VIEW_PRODUCT=true&product_id=1308&store_id=1661> from Mercy Ministries.

Ebook Starved

 

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