5 Ways To Overcome Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Eating Disorders
There they were, I thought I had been fortunate enough to avoid them, but now two weeks after the birth of my daughter, I noticed the appearance of a few stretch marks by my bellybutton. My initial reaction was panic, how could stretch marks suddenly appear two weeks postpartum? How could I get rid of them? What if more appeared? After a short time, a new panic arose, was I going to let this "flaw" drag me back down into the darkness of my past body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)?
We have touched on the topics of BDD and other disorders a few times on the Blog. You may recall that I exhibited tendencies of BDD, a mixture of anorexia and bulimia, compulsive exercising and Orthorexia Nervosa. For this post, I want to go into detail about how I, and you, with the help of God can become an overcomer.
Many of us have something we don't like about our appearance, but when "the amount of time and energy spent thinking about the body part(s)" that we dislike "interferes with day-to-day functioning or causes significant emotional distress, then the person is diagnosed with BDD" (IOCDF 2017).
Eating disorders "include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues" (NEDA 2016b).Compulsive exercise is an unhealthy relationship. Also, "There is a strong link between exercise compulsion and various forms of eating disorders"(NEDA 2016a).
BDD and eating disorders can manifest in someone's life to disastrous effects making healthy daily living a challenge or in some cases, almost impossible.
In my instance, there were many repercussions. I excessively worried about my appearance obsessively checked myself in mirrors, compared myself with others, would frequently measure and weigh myself, counted calories, refused to eat some days, chewed gum excessively, hide food sometimes, and would feel disgusted and shameful when I did eat. I was anxious, depressed, and distressed regularly. I didn't have normal periods. I addictively avoided certain foods and over-exercised, you can read more about that here. My BDD and eating disorders also interfered and considerably damaged some of my relationships. The list of the reverberations in my life went on and on.
Many times I felt a hopelessness like I was drowning, I couldn't keep my head above the water long enough to take a breath. To quote a mother of an eating disorder victim, "Eating disorders creep in like a thief in the night and take over their victims’ minds and bodies. My daughter’s every intention was to be thin" (Denise 2017). How true this is. I was a prisoner in my mind and body. I would go to sleep, and I would dream I didn't have the burdens of the disorders only to wake up and be reminded of the burdens with pains of hunger.
Then I got to know Jesus; I got to know the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus I had heard about from culture and others. I got to know Him personally, and as I did, I became an overcomer, and so can you.
1. Admit You Have a Problem.
It can be scary and painful to admit, even to yourself that there is an issue. If the feeling came up in my mind, I would push it away. It wasn't until I finally took a screening test that I let the knowledge of my disorder sink in, I finally admitted it to myself. And yes, the truth was weighted, but also relieving.
If you know, there is a problem you can seek healing. If you know there is an issue there is hope.
After taking the screening test, I had to stop justifying my behavior and eating patterns decisively. The objective evidence was there. So step one for you if you have even a slight inclination that you may have BDD or an eating disorder is to take the free online screening tests.
Eating disorder test
Admitting there is a problem is a step towards freedom from the problem. Yes, knowing may fill us with fear, but God is faithfully there for us. The AMPC Bible version of Isaiah 41:10 states,
"Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice."
2. Don't Keep Your Disorder a Secret
Even more frightening than admitting to yourself that you have BDD or an eating disorder is admitting it to others. It is a major step, and they may have already suspected it.
Many of us with eating disorders have gotten really good at keeping it secret,
"I learned the person with the eating disorder is carrying a massive burden of shame and insecurity, so they become experts at hiding these symptoms" (Denise 2017).
But this is the exact reason why it is important to tell others if you suspect you have this illness. It is easier to keep falling deeper and deeper into BDD or an eating disorder if you hold it in the dark. Light brings life. The burden of this dark secret can become lighter when we tell someone who loves us.
Nothing good grows in the dark, but light brings life.
"Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]." ~ James 5:16
It is important to tell someone you can trust, someone who will listen and will not judge or reject you. And honestly, the person you tell may, at first, deny there is an issue. In this case, be patient with them, they may have some emotions to work through. Also, be as specific as possible about how they can support you. Look again at James 5:16, what is the first action taken when a confession is brought to light? Prayer! Prayer is so powerful, and I encourage you to make prayer a part of this important conversation.
Besides a friend, family member, or church member, a doctor or counselor is another viable option. I talked to a counselor.
Next Step: Tell someone about your BDD or eating disorder and join together in prayer.
3. Depend on God's Power, Never Your Own
...demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
This verse was the cornerstone of my therapy. My thoughts could go many negative and self-destructive places, Susan Albers Psy.D. describes it like this,
"Eating disorders take hold of someone's mind and just won't let go despite that fact that eating disorders are harmful, even potentially lethal. They rob people of their physical and emotional health" (2009).
But, as mentioned in Dear Ladies, You are Astoundingly Beautiful Part 3, we can counteract our negative, destructive, and untruthful thoughts with Spirit led thoughts because we fight with spiritual weapons and "they have divine power to demolish strongholds" ~ 2 Corinthians 10:4.
This isn't easy, but with God's help we can change the way we think, we can demolish the strongholds that our BDD or eating disorder has on our mind.
It won't be a one and done battle though. We have to take our thoughts captive with the help of God continually day after day.
I can promise you that it will be a struggle to shut down the harmful thoughts that pervade the mind, but you can do it with the help of God. You cannot do it alone; you have to be willing to let go of your desires to control your body, your weight, your calorie intake, whatever it is you are trying so hard to control and surrender them and your mind to God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Surrendering control of my weight, my diet, and my exercising habits was so hard for me. I clung to my control; I was fearful of giving control to God.
But when I finally did, when I prayed "God, I give it all to you" everything changed, I was able to take my thoughts captive, and I was able to begin recovering.
Next Step: Surrender all control to God.
4. Remember What God Says about You
Denise, a mother of an eating disorder sufferer, provides a powerful statement about the lies that can infest the minds of those with BDD or an eating disorder,
"They’ve believed a lie about themselves that they’re not good enough. Not for you [parent(s)], not for God, not for themselves" (2017).
Yes, this is accurate, there were so many lies I believed about myself. I didn't feel "good enough, " and in my twisted thinking, I thought if only I weighed x-amount I would be good enough. If I could get my weight to where I wanted it, I would be set, and I would be joyful.
The trouble is what I wanted, to be thin, wasn't ever going to make me happy.
When I would hit my goal weight, I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to be thinner; I would always be after the "er."
This is because God created me for His possession. God alone is where I find my satisfaction. God is enough; I do not need to be thinner, or more anything, you fill in the blank.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." ~ 1 Peter 2:9-10
Your value is grounded in you being one of God's children. Your worth is not because of what you do but because of what God does.
Please take this to heart, neither your value or worth comes from your appearance! Think about when God revealed David as the next king to Samuel,
"But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'" ~ 1 Samuel 16:7
The Lord knows your heart, and He loves you. Not based on worldly acceptance, but on perfect, unfailing love.
5. Fill Your Spirit
Fill your spirit with the Word of God. As discussed in Dear Ladies, You are Astoundingly Beautiful Part 3; you have the Armor of God which includes the belt of truth, the Bible the Word of God. ~ Ephesians 6:14. The Word is powerful, Jesus Himself used Scripture when He was tempted by the devil in the desert. When you continually fill your spirit by reading God's Word, your spirit will be stronger and can help you get through a battle by being a light onto your path ~Psalms 119:105.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Fill your spirit all with people. As already stated, it is important to tell someone about your BDD or eating disorder. When we confide in those who love us and love Jesus, they help us "hold open the door to God's bright healing light" (YouVersion 2017).
Confide with others, your family, friends, Church family, counselor, group therapy. You do not have to battle this without the support of others.
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ~ Galatians 6:2
Fill your spirit with prayer. Prayer helps us to remember 3. Depend on God's Power, Never Your Own. Jesus prayed when He was distressed the night before He was killed for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane ~ Matthew 26. Prayer is powerful; it is also part of the Armor of God ~ Ephesians 6:18.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Let me quickly unpack these verses; it took me awhile to understand them, but now the verses provide me with hope and peace. Paul is telling us to pray with thanksgiving and not to be anxious.
The reason is that our destiny is already set, we already have victory in Christ.
When we fully realize this, things change, we have peace and joy that only God can provide.
With this in mind, I want to close this post with a prayer,
"God, I have been trying to control my life like I know better than You. Forgive me. Holy Spirit I invite you to loosen my grip on control. I surrender my illness to You. Father, when You speak, mountains move. You also gave me the power to speak and demolish strongholds. I am talking to You now and asking You to set me free from the slavery of this disorder. I pray this in Jesus name, amen."
Please read my Health Disclaimer below. Also, please take a look at Eating Disorders: Recovery is Possible for additional information including on-call support numbers.
Yours Truly, LeNae
P.S. Don't forget to subscribe to my exclusive monthly newsletter and gain access to the Resource Library which includes free resources! Also, let's be dear friends. Follow me on all my social media. Leave a comment below; I'd love to hear from you.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 2014. "Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)." https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd. Last updated September.
Mental Health America. 2017. "Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)." http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd. Accessed May 19.
It is up to you the reader, to do future research and consult a professional when considering any health information on this Blog. All information provided on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued should not replace seeking professional help or substitute professional guidelines. I am not a health, mental, nutritional, or fitness professional. The FDA has not approved any advice or statements made on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued. Any information found on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition. Please consult a professional before engaging in any activity suggested on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued.
Albers, Susan. 2009. "The Reason An Eating Disorder Can Hold You Captive." https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/comfort-cravings/200909/the-reason-eating-disorder-can-hold-you-captive. Accessed May 19.
Denise. 2017. "How to Tell if Your Child Has an Eating Disorder." https://finds.life.church/tell-child-eating-disorder/. May 19.
International OCD Foundation. "What is BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)?" 2017. https://bdd.iocdf.org/about-bdd/. Date accessed May 19.
Life.Church. 2017a. "Bad Advice: How To Become An Addict." https://www.life.church/watch/bad-advice/how-to-become-an-addict/. Accessed May 19.
-. 2017b. "I Choose: Surrender Over Control." https://www.life.church/watch/i-choose/surrender-over-control/. Accessed May 19.
NEDA. 2016a. "Compulsive Exercise." https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/compulsive-exercise. Accessed May 19.
-. 2016b. "Types & Symptoms of Eating Disorders." https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/types-symptoms-eating-disorders. Accessed May 19.
YouVersion. 2017. "A Way Out." https://www.bible.com. Accessed May 23.
Image credits Ivory Mix