Eating Disorders

Delana S

Reading through old editions of Interact Magazine, Winter 2003 stood out as critical information.  It is full of articles on eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, prevention, signs and symptoms, and testimonies of TCKs who have struggled with this.  Below is a summary of these articles

You may think that raising teenagers outside of the Western culture would protect them from facing struggles with eating disorders. Don’t be deceived! This is real and really does affect girls everywhere.  TCK Anna shared with Interact Magazine: “…in middle school…I really began to feel pressured to lose weight.  Although, I have never been overweight, I began to constantly tell myself that I looked ugly and fat.”  Anna expressed that her problem began as a child when she emotionally struggled with joking comments from friends and siblings about her weight and appearance.  During her sophomore year of high school she began to skip meals, weigh herself constantly, and talk herself into believing she wasn’t hungry.  At age sixteen she went from 135 pounds to 98 pounds in a matter of weeks.  She emphasizes that anorexia is not just a physical illness, but a mental one:  “You get to the point where no logic or statistics will make you believe that you are good enough.”

Dick Potter shares his family’s struggle with anorexia with Interact Magazine:  “I wanted to help, but I was struggling with my own anger toward (my wife), because I felt she was more responsible for our daughter’s condition than I was.  I was angry at my daughter for becoming ill, and angry at God for letting this happen at this time.  What had gone wrong for our daughter?  Where was the Lord, and what was He doing about this?”  Dick shared their entire story, but what really stood out to me were the lessons they had learned.

  1. Our work overseas is a family affair.  It is not just my work or my wife’s work.  Our children and their needs are an important part of my work while on the field.  This sounds so basic that it should not need to be said.  But in the midst of serving, parents can forget the needs of their children, and as I did at first, see them as a hindrance or obstacle to the work.
  2. The Lord is more interested in my wholeness and that of my family than what I am “doing” for Him.
  3. We developed more open and healthy communication patterns within the family.

Professor and psychiatrist John Powell shares that “prevention and early detection are crucial in reducing the psychologically and physically destructive course of eating disorders.”  He also states that up to 15% of all anorexics die because of complications they face due to starvation.  Girls can lose hair on the top of their heads, lose their periods, and gain chest hair.


Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

(Combined lists from Interact Magazine and internet)

The Anorexic Individual:

1.  Dramatic weight loss in short time period

2.  Diets, even though very skinny (reaches weight goal and sets another for further weight loss)

3.  Does aerobic exercises for more than 1 hour/day

4.  Obsessed with appearance, claims to feel fat

5.  Avoids eating in front of or with others

6.  Menstruates erratically or loses periods altogether

7.  Appears depressed much of the time

8.  Eats small amounts of food and may cut it into miniscule pieces (pushes food around on plate)

9.  May binge and purge

10.  Complains of feeling bloated or nauseated

11.  Overuses laxatives, diet pills, diuretics

12.  Insists on being the best in everything

13.  Makes abusive remarks about self

14.  Weighs once a day or more

15.  Fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness

The Bulimic Individual:

1.  Binges regularly

2.  Purges regularly by vomiting (or by abusing diuretics, laxatives, or excessive exercise)

3.  Leaves the table for the bathroom after meals

4.  Diets/exercises often but retains or regains weight

5.  Eats enormous portions but doesn’t gain weight

6.  Appears depressed much of the time

7.  Steals, or abuses drugs or alcohol

8.  Has scars on the back of hands from forced vomiting

9.  Feels out of control

10.  Extreme weight fluctuation is common

11.  Sneaks food

12.  Over concern with body shape and weight

13.  Complains of weakness, fatigue, and abdominal pain

(A physical exam might show loss of tooth enamel and enlarged salivary glands, as well as malnutrition—dry skin, swelling of legs and feet, changes in hair and nails.)


Note:  Though mostly in girls, these diseases can show up in boys.  If your child has one or more of the symptoms in the above box, don’t hesitate to get help!

What You Need to Know About Christian Teens and Eating Disorders

It Can Happen to Christian Teens—1 in 100 have it

Helpful Links for Eating Disorders:

Support group:

Links to Treatment Centers:

Books Recommended by CBD:

Hope- Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A New Approach to Treating Anorexia, Bulimia, By: Gregory Jantz

Starving: A Personal Journey through Anorexia By: Christie Pettit

Breaking Free From Anorexia and Bulimia By: Linda Mintle

God Hunger: Breaking Addictions of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Compulsive Eating By: Desiree Ayres

The Pursuit of Beauty: Finding True Beauty That Will Last Forever By: Katie Luce

Standard Deviants School, Human Nutrition Module 10: Weight Control and Metabolism, VHS