Embracing Healing: Reclaiming Your Relationship with Food, Body and Spirit

The Obsession with Appearance…and Diets

It's no surprise that we live in a world obsessed with looks. This obsession is all around us—from endless diet ads on our social media feeds, to our friends and family constantly switching from one diet to another, and even "experts" who can't make up their minds about whether eggs are bad or a superfood. Living in this whirlwind of ever-changing diet trends and ideals can be truly exhausting.

The Harsh Reality of Eating Disorders

Given the deep longing to be beautiful, or handsome, which is nearly always associated with thin or “in shape,” it is not surprising that people would struggle with food, a main contributor to being overweight.  In actuality, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, a stunning 28.8 million Americans battle with an eating disorder, a condition with a mortality rate only second to opioid addiction. Shockingly, someone dies from an eating disorder every 52 minutes. Also, 22% of young people struggle with their eating habits, and 45% feel bad about their bodies every single day. And it turns out, 1 in 5 women will face these struggles at some point.  These are truly sobering statistics that point to the depth and breadth of the complex struggles so many people have with their body image and food.   

Beyond the Stereotype

The typical image of someone with an eating disorder—a thin, young white girl—is not quite accurate. In reality, less than 6% of those affected are underweight. More often, it could be anyone: the top student who seems perfect, the mom of three with a "normal" body, the gym buff, or even the coworker who either skips sweets altogether or can't resist them. Maybe it's the senior who never misses her morning walk, or the kid who's too shy to swim. The truth is, issues with food and body image are much more common than you might think, far beyond the narrow examples often shown.

My Personal Journey

From personal experience, I know this journey all too well. My path to recovery from an eating disorder has certainly had its ups and downs. I've been overweight, underweight, and everything in between, all while struggling deeply with how I relate to food and my body. Doctors have praised me, scolded me, and sometimes not noticed my struggles at all. I've hated my body, obsessed over every calorie, and let the scale control my life—from deciding if I should hang out with friends to how I feel about myself each day. By the grace of God and the people and resources He has provided along the way, I now live in so much more freedom and peace and have a much healthier relationship with food and my body.  It is many ways due to the hard won battles I’ve fought, that I’m so passionate about helping others find their way out of disordered eating and negative body image.

Food, Body, and Healing

Eating disorders and body image issues are about food, and paradoxically, also not about food at all. Often the heart of the issue revolves around feeling rejected, or conditionally loved, and that eventually gets subtly (or blatantly) connected with our weight or appearance. Maybe there was a moment in your childhood when someone's comment about your appearance or weight made you start believing lies about yourself. Perhaps you remember when you started feeling like you needed to control, punish, or change your body. Or when treats like cookies became an obsession. Hopefully, you also have memories of enjoying ice cream straight from the carton or savoring pizza as the cheese melted. And ideally you can remember a time where you enjoyed noticing what your body can do—how it moves, breathes, dances, runs, and carries you through life.

Finding Freedom and Support

In a world with impossible beauty standards, we need to remember the deep truth that our bodies are a gift and our true value isn't tied to how we look. The remarkably common strategy of chasing approval through our appearance only leads to feeling trapped. Gradually growing in understanding why we feel the way we do about our bodies, food, and exercise, eventually paves the way to self-compassion, healing, and a real change in our lives. Books such as the 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb, Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge, and Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch can be truly helpful.  For more longstanding struggles with food and body image, the truth is we often need a caring, supportive person to help us understand ourselves better, and create a healthier relationship with food. Whether you feel trapped by an eating disorder, think you're not "sick enough" to need help, or are somewhere in the middle, I've been there. Trust me, recovery is not just possible—it's a freedom you deserve, no matter what.

If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, negative body image, or compulsive exercise who lives in Illinois, please reach out to me at Tessa@finishwellgroup.com or call me directly at 331.267.5005 Life is too short to count almonds. There's freedom waiting for you, and I'd be honored to help you find it.