Control and eating disorders – maybe you’ve noticed the connection and maybe you haven’t. Is there something out of your control in your life? Is there trouble in a relationship or a job situation that has gotten out of hand? Do you feel stifled in your life because of unmet goals or unrealized dreams? Maybe there are circumstances in your life that have turned out much different than you planned for or expected. Perhaps you even feel that you don’t have the control over your inner self that you desire.
It’s easy to understand why any of us would have areas of our lives we feel are out of control. So many things happen over which we have no say. Still, we’re left to deal with situations whether we had a part in how they turned out or not.
Of course, where we get into trouble is in restricting our food intake in an attempt to control at least one thing in our lives. Or it may be a different food-related behavior, but what drives us to it is the same desire for control.
As difficult as it is, there are times we need to let go of what isn’t ours to control. The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr is a wonderful reminder of this. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I’ll share some things from my own experience. I learned that by restricting my food intake, I wasn’t actually controlling anything. In reality, anorexia was controlling me. My food-related behaviors didn’t resolve any of the events that occurred beyond my control and drew me into the anorexic life. Depriving myself of needed nourishment didn’t help me to accept what I couldn’t change or give me the courage to change the things I could. Being anorexic didn’t put me in control of the emotions I was terrified to let surface.
Attempting to gain control through eating less didn’t work and yet that didn’t stop me from being in control of my recovery journey. I’ll tell you how that worked and how that didn’t work for me. I was in control of my recovery for the better part of my six-year battle with anorexia. Not very far into the experience, I increased my food intake and gained back some of the needed weight. There was a time I wasn’t even bothered as much by eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. However, this period was followed by a relapse that didn’t completely stop for a long time.
While I was in charge of my continued “recovery,” I allowed myself to gain a bit of weight, then engage in behaviors to lose it – gain, lose, gain, lose… Basically I wasn’t that interested in working toward recovery. It was more like I took brief breaks from giving into the eating disorder. Even while I allowed myself to gain weight, it was with the intention of losing it again.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was feeling sicker all the time and I grew weary of the back and forth thinking. In the past, a few thoughts held me back from committing myself to recovery. I couldn’t think of a reason to get better, I was afraid I would go to all of that hard work only to relapse again, and I didn’t want to “give up” anorexia. By this time, however, I knew my body wouldn’t withstand the gain/lose cycle indefinitely, I determined to work harder at recovery than before, and, most of all, I decided to give the control of my recovery journey over to Someone Else.
I knew for a long time that God would have helped me more had I allowed Him. I was finally ready to let Him. I let go of the control of my recovery journey and let Him lead me instead.
With God in control, gone were the days of the gain/lose cycle and of seeing anorexia as my friend. With God in control, my recovery journey still wasn’t easy, but for the first time in a long time, I had a sense of hope. Also, for the first time, I moved forward without stepping back or even looking back. He strengthened me to accept that which I couldn’t change and gave me courage to change the things I could. With God in control, I finally broke free of anorexia.
This experience helps me to trust God to be in control of other situations in my life as well. Do I always trust Him as I should? No, I’m a work in progress to be sure. But I know that I’ve grown and when I see Him at work in the areas over which I have no control, my faith grows. And a growing faith can only be a good thing.
If you want help to address this vital area in recovery, consider getting the Let Go of Control lesson in the Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course.
By Laurie Glass