My Battle with Anorexia

I learned I couldn’t beat my problem on my own. I needed the Savior’s help.

“Lindsay, what’s going to happen to me?” I asked my sister, as my frail body lay limp in the emergency room bed.

Lindsay replied through her tears, “I’m not sure, but I think it’s time for you to trust in Heavenly Father.”

I sat back in my bed while I rested in a state of confusion, worry, and mostly panic. I had finally reached the breaking point.

After five long, difficult years of self-worth issues and depression, anorexia had a firm grip on my whole soul. My worn-out spirit had long given in to destructive thoughts and lost hopes, but it had only been in the past year that my body had succumbed to anorexia’s deadly effects as well.

My weight was perilously low and continuing to drop. Astoundingly, I still felt I was “chubby.” It was only when I couldn’t keep any food down or stand up without losing consciousness that my concerned friends rushed me to the hospital. Within the next few days, my secret had blown up in my face, and my family insisted that I receive treatment.

At first I did not understand the seriousness of the problem. I had to trust in the love and counsel of others. I couldn’t see it in myself because I had years of practice brushing off the worries and advice of others who thought I was losing too much weight. As with many other people suffering from eating disorders, I wasn’t willing to see my problem until I was forced to by medical professionals.

I would love to say that once I confronted my problem every day was easier and that all I had to do was eat. However, it was quite the contrary. Every week was filled with doctor appointments, planning meals with a nutritionist, group and individual therapy, and weekly appointments with my bishop. I needed to set aside a time to eat every day, and I learned that I needed to always be accountable to another person for what I ate. I needed to gain the trust of others again, and they needed to gain my trust so I did not feel invaded and constantly questioned about my eating habits.

My biggest problem was that, although I felt the support of many people around me, I thought I had to fight the battle alone.

“What do you want me to do?” I shouted at my therapist. “It’s like you want me to be perfect or something! I can’t do this! I can’t just sit here and tell you why I feel like I’m fat, or why I hate myself. I don’t know why. All I know is that I just can’t do this anymore! It’s not worth it because no matter what I say or do, it’ll never be good enough to fix all of this. I’m just … broken!”

My therapist let me cry it out before she said, “You’re right. You can’t do this on your own, and no matter what you do, it won’t be good enough. You’re never going to be perfect …”

She paused to let her final thought sink in and went on to say, “… on your own. The Savior has already won this battle. Hand it over to Him, and He’ll heal you. Just hand it over, Katie.”

The words pierced my broken heart, and the Spirit filled me and testified that what she had said was absolutely true. My healing process had begun.

Some days were harder than others. On those days, I felt a deeper desire to seek the Lord’s help and to plead with Him to rid me of this terrible disorder. I knew He could do it, but I also knew I needed to trust in Him first.

I began to write all my feelings in a small journal that I kept with me throughout the day. The beginning entries contained words like insignificance, intimidation, and frustration. Once the day was through, I would put my book down in front of me, tear out the pages, and pray for those feelings to be recognized and changed. Then I’d throw the pages away and make a new entry of what I felt. Those new entries had words like hope, strength, and love. I had begun to literally and figuratively place my trial and those detrimental feelings at the Savior’s feet. That’s when the pain began to subside.

As the days became weeks and the weeks became months, I began to feel the companionship of the Spirit. I learned how to distinguish between revelations from the Lord and the harsh feelings and thoughts of the world. I felt unity within my family as we pulled together to strengthen not only me but one another. Yet, most of all, I developed my friendship, my very best friendship, with my Savior. The calming influence of the Atonement was, and is still, taking place in my life. Although this experience continues to influence my life and will continue for years to come, I now see myself not only for who I am but mostly for who I will become. I know now that this is how our Father in Heaven sees us, and what a sight that is!

Extra! Extra!

For more information about eating disorders, see the following articles at “Eating Disorders: A Deadly State of Mind” (New Era, Feb. 1993) by Janet Thomas; “The Thinness Obsession” (Ensign, Jan. 1990) by Harold A. Frost; and “Random Sampler: Helping Prevent Eating Disorders” (Ensign, Jan. 1994) by Val Farmer.

For more on turning your trials over to the Lord and being healed, see “Healing Soul and Body” by Robert D. Hales (Ensign, Nov. 1998).

[photos] Photography by David Stoker

Warning Signs

If you are concerned that you or a loved one could be struggling with an eating disorder, look for some of these signs:

  • Intense fear of being “fat”

  • A change in weight not related to a medical condition

  • Severe dieting, binge eating, or preoccupation with food

  • Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, diet pills, or other related medications

  • Evidence of forced vomiting

  • Distorted body image, preoccupation with body shape and size

  • Obsessive or excessive exercise

  • Depressed mood or anxiety

It is important that you take action and get help if you notice these symptoms. Eating disorders are hazardous to your physical and spiritual health. LDS Family Services can help. For more information please call 1-801-240-2429.